Dignified. Cultured. Weighty. Majestic, yet understated.
A former professional football player, Summerall will be remembered by many for his longtime pairing with the equally overstated commentator John Madden on National Football League broadcasts. And rightly so. Summerall broadcast a record 16 Super Bowls, and his 22-year pairing with Madden was so iconic that they were once depicted on a Simpsons animated show.
But his pairing with the Masters was no less magnetic.
From 1968 to 1994, he helped strike the perfect tone for the most sublime sporting event in the world.
Paradoxically, the word “minimalist” isn’t pithy or expansive enough to describe his don’t-get-in-the-way, it’s-not-about-me style. Today, sportscasters seem to try to be superstars. They sometimes appear to have rehearsed how they might phrase a sporting event’s dramatic conclusion – as if they want their own brilliant lines to be the takeaway, rather than the game itself.
Pat Summerall let the athletes and their amazing feats be the story, which he merely narrated with the elegance of a Morgan Freeman and the folksiness of a country song.
And that voice. Full, resonant and profound, yet soothing, even tranquilizing. This man could’ve made a ham sandwich sound consequential. If he was your waiter, you’d want whatever he was describing.
What he described, in one of the most humble but momentous sportscasting careers in history, were some of the most memorable and exciting sporting events in our lifetimes.
He just didn’t think it was his place to walk all over our own excitement. He danced us through decades of great moments and never once stepped on anyone’s toes. He was a great lead.
We can almost hear his voice as we simply say, in typical Summerall economy: Well done, sir.