Summerall, Madden: pair to beat full house

MEDIA WATCH

Longtime partners work 7th Super Bowl today

Super Bowl Xxxiii

January 31, 1999|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

NEW YORK -- If first impressions are real indicators of what's to come, let's say that John Madden didn't make a good one with Pat Summerall.

The time was 1980 and the place was the old Tampa Stadium, where Summerall was to be paired with his new broadcast partner for a midseason game between the homestanding Buccaneers and the New York Giants.

Summerall, by then, had already reached the summit of football broadcasting. Madden was the promising novice, just a year removed from coaching the Oakland Raiders.

As the smooth Summerall strode into the broadcast booth in the Tampa press box, one of the highest in the NFL, he glanced at the meaty Madden.

"He [Madden] was there in a suit and the sweat was just rolling off him. I said to myself, `Oh my God! Man, this is the wrong business for this guy. He's not going to make it,' " recalled Summerall during the recent football season.

He learned that Madden was sweating so profusely, not because of a lack of confidence, but because he was afraid of both heights and of closed places.

"By the end of the first quarter, I knew he had something to say, and by the time the game was over, I knew that we had a rhythm and we fit together," said Summerall.

Eighteen years later, the two will work their seventh Super Bowl together today, their second for Fox, as part of the longest running and most successful sports broadcasting tandem ever.

Summerall and Madden.

John and Pat.

The kicker and the coach.

It seems as though they have always been together with their idiosyncrasies -- Madden's "whaps" and "booms" and wild Telestrator drawings, Summerall's lean calls that seem to draw out a name a couple of extra syllables.

The fact that Summerall and Madden have lasted together for this long -- doing four more Super Bowls than any other pairing -- in a profession where today's play-by-play announcer is tomorrow's studio host and the next day's window washer -- stands as a testament to letting things be.

"The fact that no one has tinkered with it is amazing," said Madden. "It's like, I walked through Central Park and it's amazing to me that Central Park has been there all these years and no one messed it up or said, `I think we ought to build an apartment complex or shopping in there.' No one has messed with us."

Along the way, two vastly different men have forged a partnership that has lasted longer than many marriages. "A lot of marriages," Summerall cracked.

Summerall, 68, a Southerner, broke into broadcasting in 1962, and was one of CBS' color analysts on the first Super Bowl broadcast in 1967. He learned from two masters -- Ray Scott, the former voice of the Green Bay Packers, and Baseball Hall of Famer Jack Buck.

Madden, 62, who was born in Minnesota but raised near San Francisco, stepped right off the sidelines and into the booth. He became one of the first of the mega-star analysts, a guy whose very presence indicates that the game the viewer is watching is special.

Though their makeups and approaches stand sharply apart, what the two men share is a football background. Madden, of course, coached the Raiders to a .726 winning percentage over 10 seasons and a world championship in Super Bowl XI.

Summerall, a kicker for the Giants in the 1950s and '60s, scored five points in the 1958 championship game against the Colts.

While Madden commands attention with his gesticulations and enthusiasm, it's Summerall's understated quality and his willingness to let Madden run wild that gets the job done.

"Pat's a man of few words and John's a man of many," said producer Robert Stenner, who has been with the pair from their beginning at CBS. "John can go off on tangents and Pat can safely land the plane. John has the luxury of going wherever he wants, knowing that Pat will be there to keep them on course."

Madden was one of the first to visit his partner seven years ago at the Betty Ford Clinic when Summerall checked himself in to battle alcohol addiction.

Two years later, when CBS, the only place either of them had worked in broadcasting, lost NFC rights to Fox, the men made a pact that it would always be Summerall and Madden in a broadcast booth.

"When we left CBS, we had a conversation about that very possibility, that he would go somewhere and I would go somewhere," said Summerall. "He said, `What are you going to do?' And I said, `I can't imagine, at this point in my career working with anybody else.' And he said, `I don't want to work with anybody else.' "

Said Madden: "I know that I wouldn't be what I am in broadcasting without Pat. I've always said if you can't get along with Pat Summerall, you can't get along with anybody. He's the best."

Pub Date: 1/31/99

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