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04/16/2013

RIP Pat Summerall, the master of the understated

Pat-Summerall-photoIt is with profound sadness to hear that former NFL player and long time CBS broadcaster Pat Summerall has died. He was 82.

He was the voice of the NFL for two decades of football fans.

Summerall began his career as a football player, but built his national following and legacy as the play-by-play voice of the NFL in the 1980s. He was paired with former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden on CBS and for more than two decades the duo was easily the best and most recognized broadcasting tandem in sports. He retired in 2002, but it always seemed that he never wanted to actually quit.

No play by play man understood the concept of his medium better than Pat, who was able to say so much by saying so very little. While most of today's sports TV play by play men can't stop talking, Pat always understood that the picture didn't require much.

His passing brings to mind the time The New York Times spoofed his style with John Madden as if the pair were calling the action from Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea: "Old Cuban. Sea. Marlin. Harpoon. Sharks feast. Brave old guy. Broken knife. What a struggle. John?”

It helped he had a great voice, and perfect partner. He was the calm to Madden's crazy.

"It's a visual medium," he once told me in an interview I did for my book on Texas Stadium in 2008.

"He was awesome," said former NFL coach Dan Reeves when I reached him on the phone today. "He did so many Cowboys games when I was a player and then a player coach. He and Madden were just such great guys. He was a classy person. I played some golf with him. He was a great friend and I will definitely miss him. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He was a special man.

"The last time I saw him he looked great. I know Pat had been through some tough times, but he looked good and he was happy and doing well. That's how I'd like to remember him."

Current Dallas Cowboys radio play by play voice Brad Sham said of Pat: "It was one of the great honors of my life to call him friend. We were members of a group of current and former media types I called, 'Old Timers.'

"He was, to me, what TV play by play men should all emulate. He was the personificiation of style, wit grace and humor. In his last decades (he was) a devout Christian. Always a man's man. He left it all the way better than he found it. "

Here is a way I remember Pat, as I am sure millions of others do as well ...

 

 

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tengel@star-telegram.com

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