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Pat Summerall Was The 'Voice Of Football,' John Madden Says

Pat Summerall was the "voice of football and always will be," longtime broadcasting partner John Madden said Tuesday.

But Summerall, who died Tuesday at the age of 82, was not a man who used many words when few would do. Here's how The Dallas Morning News begins its story about the broadcaster and his life:

"Pat Summerall died Tuesday. He was 82.

"That's how Summerall, almost a decade ago, said he would craft the first sentences of his obituary — short and to the point. ... Summerall's comment about his obituary was made at his Southlake home after a 2004 liver transplant that saved his life. He was serious.

"Typical ... succinct ... vintage Summerall."

Words of praise for Summerall, who for many years on CBS was also the voice of the Masters golf tournament and U.S. Open tennis, are coming from many places:

-- He was "the calm alongside John Madden's storm." ( ESPN)

-- "Pat Summerall was a hero to me." (CBS Sports' Jim Nantz)

-- "Summerall was the low-key, concise counterpoint to Madden, the former NFL coach who offered meandering yet knowledgeable analysis." ( Los Angeles Times)

The Associated Press recaps his career:

"Summerall played 10 NFL seasons from 1952 to 1961 with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants [as a kicker and defensive back], but it was in his second career that he became a voice familiar to generations of sports fans, not only those of the NFL. ... [He] started doing NFL games for CBS in 1964, and became a play-by-play guy 10 years later. He was also part of coverage of the PGA Tour, including the Masters from 1968-94, and U.S. Open tennis.

"When CBS lost its NFL deal after the 1993 season, Summerall switched to Fox to keep calling NFL games with Madden. ...

"His final play-by-play words beside Madden were succinct, of course, as he called the game-ending field goal of the Super Bowl for Fox on Feb. 3, 2002, when New England beat St. Louis 20-17.

" 'It's right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock. And the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable,' Summerall said."

Summerall died of cardiac arrest at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said.

As the Los Angeles Times also notes, "Summerall battled alcoholism throughout much of his life and wrote about it in his 2006 autobiography, Pat Summerall: On and Off the Air.

According to the AP, it was "after an intervention involving, among others, former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, former CBS Sports President Peter Lund and former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beaman," that Summerall entered the Betty Ford Clinic in 1992:

"I had no intention of quitting, I was having too good a time," Summerall said in a 2000 Associated Press story. "The prescribed stay at Betty Ford is 28 days. They kept me 33 because I was so angry at the people who did the intervention, the first five days didn't do me any good."

In 2004, he had a life-saving liver transplant.

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From 'Morning Edition': NPR's Richard Gonzales reports on Pat Summerall

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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