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The Inside Track | Q & A With John Madden and Pat Summerall

They Spent a Lifetime Carving Out a Tradition

November 29, 2002|Jim Gray | Special to The Times

For the first time in 22 years John Madden and Pat Summerall were not together broadcasting a football game on Thanksgiving. Last season's Super Bowl in New Orleans was their final telecast together. With numerous awards and acclaim, the two were widely recognized as the best football broadcast duo of all time.

Question: What's it like to be at home on Thanksgiving?

Answer: John: Well, I don't know. I mean that's the thing, our tradition. Pat's tradition and my tradition, we're always being together and either being in Dallas or Detroit every other year, having a dinner the night before, and then the day of the game having turkey. Those things, the football game, and the camaraderie for the last 22 years had been our family. That had been our tradition, and now to come back to the traditional tradition is something that hasn't been traditional to us.

Q: Pat, does it seem odd to be without John and without the football game at the site?

A: Gosh, yeah, I can't tell you how much I miss him and doing the game. Since we are not on the air, I would like to wish a very happy Thanksgiving to everybody, particularly those of you who might have put up with us for the last 21, 22 years. It was an enjoyable time; it's a time that I'll cherish for as long as I live. I haven't been home on Thanksgiving Day with family and friends since 1964. Being with John was our tradition, and it's something that I miss very much. However, it is nice to be home with friends and family and watch and see what goes on.

Q: You're not carving the turkey after 38 years of being away, are you Pat?

A: I don't have any idea how to carve a turkey. And, at this point I don't think I want to learn.

Q: What does Thanksgiving mean to you in a broader sense than just the tradition of football being played?

A: John: Well, you have to look at the big picture. We get so caught up in our everyday lives and what we're doing and what people around us are doing, that we think that's really all there is. Around Thanksgiving time you step back and look at more than what's just going on in your life or around you, but what's going on in our whole country and what's going on in the whole world, and give thanks for the good things we have in our life.

Pat: I had the opportunity last week to play golf with a young man who is stationed in Kuwait, who had a month leave before he was going back, and I was just amazed at hearing the stories that he was telling about the morale of the troops and, gosh, what a debt we owe them who are stationed away from home on Thanksgiving. We have our feelings about being apart, John and I do, but to see the morale and the good spirit of that young man who was gonna be away for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they don't know when something might happen ... to see how good he felt about what he was doing, living in America and representing our country, is something that I'll eternally give thanks for. To think that I was born in this country, and the fact that I've enjoyed such a great life in this country with such great friends ... is what I'm thankful for.

Q: On Thanksgiving at the end of the game you gave out turkey legs to the players of the game. Will you do that at another time now?

A: John: Well, I think that's something that's gonna be retired. I mean that's something that Pat and I did for so many years, you know, the Turkey Leg Award, and it was kind of fun. You know, when you had the game and then you had the turkey there and then we had the Turducken. And what a Turducken is, is a de-boned chicken, stuffed in a de-boned duck, stuffed in a de-boned turkey with between the chicken and the duck is a dressing, and between the duck and the turkey is a dressing, so when you cut down through it you get turkey, dressing, duck, dressing, chicken. We met someone in New Orleans years ago that gave us our first Turducken. I mean, it just got bigger and bigger and we were being sent more and more birds, and it was just a lot of fun.

Pat: The tradition sort of built over the years, and the players came to find it very important to perform well in the Thanksgiving Day game just so they'd get one of those turkey legs. It just grew and grew and grew and the number of legs grew and grew and grew. It got to be a big ceremony; a big tradition for John's two bus drivers where they got a chance to walk down on the field carrying the turkeys like they were some descendant of royalty or something like that. And it got to be cherished by and fun for the players and for us.

Q: Could you ever imagine a Thanksgiving Day without football?

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