With the death of Pat Summerall, sports broadcasting lost one of its great straight men.
Summerall, who died Tuesday at age 82, played a decade in the NFL during the 1950s. But he was best known for his pairing with John Madden on TV, where the two redefined football game announcing for 22 seasons starting in 1981 on CBS and later on Fox.
Madden, a former coach, made for an expansive, excessive, endlessly voluble analyst, and Summerall provided his perfect play-by-play foil. Precise and circumspect, with an avuncular demeanor and an authorative voice whose provenance was impossible to pin down (he was a native of Florida), Summerall indulged his partner's many appetites and asides, even when that meant being elbowed aside at the mike and in the limelight.
A clip of a 1996 Cowboys-Dolphins game — available on YouTube — captures the spirit of their partnership.
"Who's this guy right here?" Madden suddenly asked between plays, drawing a yellow Telestrator circle around an attendee in a box.