“Seven seconds. They’ve got Vinatieri in range.”
A hushed New England sideline watched in silent tension as Adam Vinatieri lined up for the 48-yard field goal that would give the Patriots their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
Few of the 86 million that were tuned in for football’s biggest game understood the pressure that walked onto the New England kicker as he walked onto the field. But the voice that was delivering the game knew all too well. This wasn’t just any kick.
“Here comes one of greater importance,” the composed baritone said. “And it’s right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock and the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable.”
As Vinatieri leaped with outstretched arms to meet his teammates rushing onto the field, up in the broadcast booth, Pat Summerall, who had delivered the game-winning call, remained silent for a time. One could not help but think that perhaps he was connecting with Vinatieri’s emotions, remembering a kick of his own that sent the New York Giants to the NFL Championship in 1958. How he had rushed off the field, meeting his teammates in ecstasy and embracing coach Vince Lombardi, who smiled, saying, “You know you can’t kick that far, don’t you?”
But both Vinatieri and Summerall had kicked that far. It was that simple. And that was how Summerall conveyed the scene at New Orleans in 2001.
That was the style of the legendary play-by-play announcer, Pat Summerall, who died Tuesday at the age of 82. Concise. Succinct. To the point.
In his 42 years as a broadcaster for CBS Sports and Fox, Summerall covered the NFL, the Masters, college football and the U.S. Open. John Madden, who partnered with Summerall for 22 seasons, called him the “voice of football.” The description fits.
Starting in 1962, Summerall began broadcasting NFL games for CBS Sports just as professional football was starting to get full coverage on television. Throughout his career, Summerall broadcast 16 Super Bowls and co-hosted the NFL Films series This Week in Pro Football.
A pioneer in the first generation of football television broadcasters, Summerall became synonymous with the game itself, leading the way for the Mike Tiricos and Joe Bucks of today.
An award in his honor has been presented every Super Bowl weekend since 2006 "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."
He is eternally remembered for the example he set.
To that first generation of televised-game watchers, he was the voice of football. To many in my generation, he called the games of our earliest memory. And to the next generation, he will be a legendary figure, influential in the history of sports.