Madden, Summerall hold on to joint hopes


In planning their future as a CBS broadcast team last week, Pat Summerall and John Madden arrived at a gloomy conclusion. They didn't have one.

The booth buddies already knew the score. They were about to be shut out as NFL announcers -- at least on CBS.

An earthquake had overturned the television sports landscape. Fox created the first shock wave. It outbid CBS for broadcast rights to NFC games.

Summerall and Madden felt the jolt. The NFC had been their venue for 13 years while they evolved into TV's premier sports partnership. Next year there would be no NFC on CBS for either.

Before last Sunday's game in the Silverdome between Detroit and San Francisco, Summerall and Madden awaited the final tremor.

Or as Summerall put it from Florida: "I'm basically looking for work. Got any ideas?"

He and Madden already had the best idea. They will try to stick together. Whither one goest, so goes the other. Something of a mutual pledge sprang from a conversation Summer all recalled. "I can't see myself working with anyone else," he told Madden.

"I can't ever see myself working with anyone but you," Madden replied.

Thus, their bond.

"I wouldn't say we'll negotiate as a team. We have sort of a gentlemen's understanding," Summerall said.

The partners correctly foresaw the future. Both are now free agents. NBC's winning bid for AFC games yesterday removed CBS from the pro football picture.

"I know the feeling I had when I heard the news," said Summerall. "I never had a brother. The NFL and [ex-CBS partner] Tom Brookshier were the closest to brothers I've had. There's an emptiness."

The emotional wrench for Summerall is acute. He has been affiliated with the NFL for 42 years -- 10 as a player, the remainder with CBS Sports.

"Some people don't live that long," he chuckled.

Summerall almost didn't. He dodged a near-fatal attack of bleeding ulcers three years ago. Now he and Madden have a different finish line in sight -- two regular-season and three playoff games, climaxing with the NFC championship.

"As far as we know, that's the end," he said.

Madden is gone from CBS since NFL games were his only function. Summerall was its man for all sports seasons. He was also the primary voice on golf and tennis.

"I don't know what will happen to me," Summerall said.

His contract stipulates that if CBS doesn't carry the NFL, he and the network have 30 days to re-negotiate. Summerall could stay and do golf and tennis but at reduced wages.

"It's something I might have to accept," he admitted. "I've had no offers from Fox. I don't know anybody at Fox. I don't know if they've thought about us."

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