Pat Summerall was back in the news indirectly this past week when ESPN axed its lead baseball team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan after 21 seasons, leaving them tied with the storied partnership of Summerall and John Madden on NFL games from 1981-2001.
What was the secret to their longevity? “He respected me and I respected him and that’s the real answer,’’ he said. “I don’t remember ever having a cross word in all those years.’’
Madden retired after the 2008 season but at 80 Summerall still likes to keep his hand in the business. He has called the past four Cotton Bowls and hopes to do so again in January.
Summerall, a famously laid-back on-air presence, said his biggest problem with modern sportscasters is that they get so caught up in information overload that they forget to develop a personality.
He would not name favorites, but he did say he is impressed with how far Fox’s Troy Aikman has come.
“I used to do a weekly show in Dallas with Troy and remember thinking at that time, ‘I hope he doesn’t try to go into the broadcasting business,’’’ Summerall said. “I think he’s made tremendous progress. I didn’t think he’d work that hard. For years the television networks took former players and said, ‘Hey, you played the game, just talk about it.’’’
Summerall was promoting his new book, “Giants: What I Learned About Life from Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry,’’ based on his experiences working with both men when they were Giants assistants. As a tight end and placekicker he sat in on meetings with both.
“You saw how confident they were in their philosophies, the confidence they had in what they were saying, even though they presented it differently,’’ he said. “You hated for the meetings to be over. At least I did. Usually you try to keep the players awake.’’