It is the opinion of this lil ole chiweenie Sportsphile that the best NFL game commentators of all-time since the inception of televised NFL games to the present CBS’s lead broadcast team from 1981 to 1994 was Pat Summerall and John Madden
In 1981, Pat Summerall was teamed with former Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden….in a pairing that would last for 22 seasons on two networks and become one of the most well-known partnerships in TV sportscasting history….as Summerall and Madden were first teamed on a November 25, 1979 broadcast of a Minnesota Vikings vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. While the two were paired on CBS, they called Super Bowls XVI, XVIII, XXI, XXIV, and XXVI together….for it is often mistakenly assumed that Summerall and Madden handled the call on CBS-TV for the 1981 NFC Championship Game….when San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark made “The Catch” to lift the 49ers to a 28–27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys….and a berth in Super Bowl XVI….as instead, CBS’ #2 broadcast team of Vin Scully and Hank Stram handled the broadcast…..while Madden was given the weekend off to travel to Pontiac, Michigan for the game and to prepare for the broadcast.
The team of Madden and Summerall would go on to call eight Super Bowls together (five for CBS and three for Fox). On their final CBS telecast together (the NFC Championship Game on January 23, 1994)….Madden told Summerall that while CBS may no longer have the NF….for the time being, as CBS would eventually regain NFL rights in 1998 by outbidding NBC for the rights to AFC telecasts….at least they have the memories.
Madden’s lively and flamboyant delivery has won him critical acclaim and fourteen Sports Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sports Event Analyst….as his announcing style is punctuated with interjections such as “Boom!”…. “Whap!”….”Bang!”and “Doink!”‘…..and his use of the telestrator….a device which allowed him to superimpose his light-penned diagrams of football plays over video footage…..as Madden’s use of the telestrator helped to popularize the technology….which has become a staple of television coverage of all sports.
Madden and Summerall also became known for working the annual Thanksgiving Day games for CBS and later Fox….where they would award a turkey or turducken to players of the winning team….where Madden would also award a turkey drumstick to players of the winning team during the Thanksgiving Day game….while often bringing out a “nuclear turkey” with as many as eight drumsticks on it for the occasion.
Any way you cut the pie…..Pat Summerall and John Madden raised several generations and millions of NFL fans on professional football…..as they not only taught us how the game was played…..while educating us all about the inter-workings of the NFL….for no game announcers influenced the throng of NFL followers quite like these tow me….as they were truly a MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.