PAT SUMMERALL 1930-2013
For many Americans, Pat Summerall was an essential part of their fondest NFL memories, as he set the standard by which all broadcasters today are measured in his decades in the broadcast booth. He played as a kicker at the dawn of the league’s modern era as the game began to be broadcast on TV and would prove to be its most influential broadcaster as the league and its prime event – the Super Bowl – surpassed baseball as America’s sport of choice. Below is the final seconds of his very last broadcast, which fittingly was a classic Super Bowl as the underdog New England Patriots stunned the heavily favored defending champions St. Louis on the toe of its kicker.
Summerall spent ten years as a professional football player in the National Football League, primarily as a placekicker. The Detroit Lions drafted Summerall as a fourth-round draft choice in the 1952 NFL Draft. Summerall played the pre-season with the Lions before breaking his arm, which ended the year for him. After that season, he was traded and went on to play for the Chicago Cardinals from 1953 to 1957 and the New York Giants from 1958 to 1961, during which he was a part of The Greatest Game Ever Played. His best professional year statistically was 1959, when Summerall scored 90 points on 30-for-30 (100%) extra-point kicking and 20-for-29 (69%) field goal kicking.
Summerall’s most memorable professional moment may well have been at the very end of the Sunday, December 14, 1958 regular season finale between his Giants and the Cleveland Browns at Yankee Stadium. Going into the game, the Browns were in first place in the Eastern Conference, holding a one-game lead over the second-place Giants. In that era, there was no overtime during regular season games, standings ties were broken by a playoff, and there were no wild-card teams. This meant that only the Eastern Conference champion would qualify for the NFL Championship Game to be held two weeks later, and it meant that the Giants had to win just to force a tiebreaker playoff game. The Browns, on the other hand, needed only a tie to clinch the Eastern championship. As time was running out, the Giants and Browns were tied, 10-10, a situation that, as indicated, favored the Browns. The Giants got barely into Cleveland territory, and then sent out Summerall to try for a tiebreaking 49-yard field goal. To add to the drama, there were swirling winds and snow. Summerall, a straight-ahead kicker, made the field goal with just two minutes to play, keeping the Giants alive for another week (they defeated Cleveland a week later, 10-0, in the Eastern Conference tiebreaker playoff before losing the sudden-death playoff to Baltimore the week after that). Giants’ offensive coach Vince Lombardi was against sending Summerall in (Summerall had missed 31 yard attempt a few minutes earlier), and then gleefully greeted Summerall as he came off the field ‘You son of a bitch, you can’t kick it that far! Sports Illustrated ran the story as one of its primary articles the next week, with a leading photograph showing the football heading between the uprights through the snow.
Summerall’s last professional game was the December 31, 1961 NFL Championship Game held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers defeated Summerall’s Giants, 37-0, holding New York to just six first downs. Summerall was not a factor in that game. George “Pat” Summerall was nicknamed “Pat” because as a kicker, the box score would read PAT Summerall – referring to Point After Touchdown.
CBS Sports After retiring from football, Summerall was hired by CBS Sports in 1962 to work as a color commentator on the network’s NFL coverage. CBS initially paired Summerall with Chris Schenkel on Giants games; three years later he shifted to working with Jim Gibbons on Washington Redskins games. In 1968, after CBS abandoned the practice of assigning dedicated announcing crews to particular NFL teams, Summerall ascended to the network’s lead national crew, pairing with Jack Buck and then Ray Scott. Summerall also covered other events such as ABA basketball for CBS during this period, and through 1966 hosted a morning drive-time music/talk program for WCBS-AM radio in New York. In 1969, Summerall took part in NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl III. He also co-hosted the syndicated NFL Films series This Week in Pro Football in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Midway through the 1974 NFL season, CBS shifted Summerall from color to play-by-play. The network’s #1 NFL crew now consisted of Summerall and analyst Tom Brookshier (with whom he had previously worked on This Week in Pro Football), and the colorful Summerall-Brookshier duo worked three Super Bowls (X, XII, and XIV) together. Summerall, Brookshier, NFL on CBS producer Bob Wussler, and Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie appeared as themselves during the 1977 film Black Sunday, which was filmed on location at the Orange Bowl in Miami during Super Bowl X.
In 1981, Summerall was teamed with former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, a pairing that would last for 22 seasons on two networks and become one of the most well-known partnerships in TV sportscasting history. Summerall and Madden were first teamed on a November 25, 1979 broadcast of a Minnesota Vikings–Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. While the two were paired on CBS, they called Super Bowls XVI, XVIII, XXI, XXIV, and XXVI together. It is often mistakenly assumed that Summerall and Madden handled the call on CBS-TV for the 1981 NFC Championship Game, when San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark made “The Catch” to lift the 49ers to a 28–27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys and a berth in Super Bowl XVI. Instead, CBS’ #2 broadcast team of Vin Scully and Hank Stram handled the broadcast while Madden was given the weekend off to travel to Pontiac, Michigan for the game and to prepare for the broadcast. Since Stram was Jack Buck’s color commentator on CBS Radio, Summerall substituted for Stram as Buck’s partner; this was the first time Buck and Summerall had called a game together since 1974, when then-lead color commentator Summerall was moved off of Buck’s team to become CBS television’s lead play-by-play voice for the NFL.
Summerall also broadcast PGA Tour matches on CBS, including The Masters Tournament, as well as the US Open of tennis, during his tenure at CBS, and he was the play-by-play announcer for the 1974 NBA Finals, CBS’ first season broadcasting the NBA on CBS. Summerall’s last on-air assignment for CBS Sports was the 1994 Masters Tournament. His last game alongside Madden for CBS was the 1993 NFC Championship Game (that saw the Dallas Cowboys defeat the San Francisco 49ers to go to Super Bowl XXVIII) in Irving, Texas.  The NFL on Fox See also: NFL on Fox In 1994, the Fox network surprised NFL fans by outbidding CBS for the NFC broadcast package. One of the network’s first moves was to hire Summerall and Madden as its lead announcing team. While at Fox the pair called Super Bowls XXXI, XXXIII, and XXXVI together. The long-time partnership ended after Super Bowl XXXVI in early 2002, as Summerall had announced he would be retiring from announcing and Madden’s contract had expired.
Super Bowl legacy and Awards
Summerall has broadcast 16 Super Bowls on network television with CBS and FOX, more than any other announcer. He also contributed to 10 Super Bowl broadcasts on CBS Radio as a pregame host or analyst.
The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named Summerall National Sportscaster of the Year in 1977, and inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 1994. Summerall was the 1994 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, bestowed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame “for longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football”. In 1999 he was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. Since 2006 the “Pat Summerall Award” has been presented at the annual Legends for Charity Luncheon given on Super Bowl weekend at the NFL’s headquarters hotel in the host city. The award is given “to a deserving recipient who through their career has demonstrated the character, integrity and leadership both on and off the job that the name Pat Summerall represents.” Recipients have included James Brown (2006), Greg Gumbel (2007), Jim Nantz (2008), Chris Berman (2009), Cris Collinsworth (2010), and the entire NFL on Fox crew (2011).
- Summerall and Levin, 2010 pg. 27
- Summerall and Levin, 2010 pg. 28-29
- Maraniss, 1999 pg. 183
- Summerall and Levin, 2010 pg. 107
- Maraniss, 1999 pg. 184
- Summerall’s 49 Yarder Puts Giants in Playoff,” The Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Mon. Dec. 15, 1958, p. 10.
- “History of the Masters golf tournament on TV (1956-present)”. Classic Sports TV and Media. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- American Sportscasters Association | Hall Of Fame – Pat Sumerall ^ http://www.legendsforcharity.com/