45° Good Afternoon
45° Good Afternoon
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Bob Stenner reflects on 50 years of producing, football, John Madden and Pat Summerall

Bob Stenner is retiring as a producer after

Bob Stenner is retiring as a producer after Sunday's Giants-Rams game. Photo Credit: Fox Sports

The band broke up years ago, but one member of the most storied quartet in NFL television history has carried on, up to and including Sunday's Giants-Rams game on Fox.

Come Dec. 28, though, outside a stadium yet to be determined, Bob Stenner will leave a production truck for the last time as a producer.

That will end an era highlighted by a 21-season stretch teamed with Pat Summerall, John Madden and director Sandy Grossman at CBS and Fox that helped set the tone for modern football coverage.

How does Stenner think he will feel when the time comes?

"I don't know how I'm going to feel," he said by phone from his home in Southern California. "I don't know if I'll go Dick Vermeil on everybody, but there's a good chance I will."

Regardless of whether Stenner cries, he hopes this is not the end of his association with Fox. He plans to consult for the network and help train a new generation of producers, directors and announcers.

But 55 years after going to work in the CBS mailroom for $59 a week and a half-century after Frank Gifford helped get him a job producing his local show on Channel 2, he is ready to leave his chair to someone new.

Stenner, 73, once was that someone new.

After spending his teenage years in Flushing and then Douglaston before hitting the mailroom, he rose rapidly from producing Giants home games to a full national slate to Super Bowl X in Miami -- the first of his eight Super Bowls.

Stenner worked dozens of major events in addition to the NFL, but his primary claim to fame was the period that began in 1981 at CBS when Madden replaced Tom Brookshier on the No. 1 announcing team.

It was magic.

"They were unique because they were unique," Stenner said of the charm of Summerall, who died in 2013, and Madden, who retired in 2009. Grossman died in April of this year.

Stenner said the announcers' differences were their strength. Madden knew he could go off in any direction, "like you stick a pin in a balloon and it flies all over the place," confident that Summerall would "land it safely back down to Earth and just do it perfectly with few words."

Said Stenner, "When you put two people together and say, 'I knew this would happen,' that would be a lie, but it did happen, and it happened because of who they are."

As producer and director, Stenner and Grossman were charged with setting up the on-air talent to shine.

"We knew the things they liked," Stenner said.

The group covered numerous big games in the NFC East's heyday, including one memorable character in particular. Before I was able to finish asking Stenner to name his favorite production meeting subject, he cut me off.

"Oh, [Bill] Parcells, clearly," he said.

Was he more forthcoming with Stenner's crew than he was with the print media?

"Absolutely, 100 percent," he said. "You build a trust, and he trusted us and would tell us what plays he would use. He'd give us his first plays . . . And we were all extremely appreciative. We used to bring him a sandwich all the time -- a tuna fish sandwich."

Stenner missed two months of his farewell season because of ulcerative colitis but returned last weekend for the Packers-Bills game.

He said the forced break allowed him to watch games in peace and analyze the coverage, which confirmed his opinion that even as technological toys have proliferated, the fundamental things still apply.

"If you're doing a game saying, 'I'm going to shine and we're going to make ourselves look more important than the game,' it's a drastic, drastic mistake," he said.

"You might say, I've been doing this 50 years, things change a lot. No, they don't. They really don't. Technology has its place, and it's a great place. But that's it. It has a place. It shouldn't be the first place."


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports