First it was Keith Jackson who couldn't walk away from football, now this. It's been two years since Pat Summerall called a football game, but it seems much longer; already it feels like John Madden and Al Michaels have been partners for a decade. It'll be a shock, then, to hear the 76-year-old calling Sunday's Chicago Bears-San Francisco 49'ers game four years after he first left Fox. But he's back in the booth doing NFL play-by-play because on January 1, he'll be working the Cotton Bowl game, which Fox asked him to do since, ya know, he can just drive to the game. Summerall didn't want to do the Cotton Bowl without a little warm-up, so the network game him the Bears game. Awfully nice of Fox.
There's a piece about Summerall's return to the booth in today's Chicago Tribune, which says, more or less, that Summerall really oughta be dead by now. No, really. Here's the lead: "People really should be talking about Pat Summerall in the past tense by now." Since he used to drink so much. "Hedonistic," Summerall calls his old lifestyle. Lucky. Says Summerall, whose bio includes calling 16 Super Bowls and receiving one brand-new liver, of the good ol' days at CBS with former partner Tom Brookshier: "We were focused on the next broadcast and how many drinks it would take to get us there and back."
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Here's hoping Summerall does well Sunday; during his last few seasons, well, he wasn't always at the top of the game, at least if you considerd identifying players correctly as an important part of the gig. He says not to worry: "There's going to be some doubts, obviously. People will wonder whether I can pull the trigger again. I think I can. I'm confident it all will come back very quickly." And he will be paired with Brian Baldinger, who automatically lowers the bar. So Pat's got that going for him, which is nice. --Robert Wilonsky