The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Pat Summerall: Gridiron, God, and Graham

By Andrew Knox
The 700 Club In this interview, Summerall talks openly about his struggle with alcohol addiction and his decision to turn to Christ.

PAT SUMMERALL: Seemed like everything I tried to do in broadcasting and as a player before that turned out successfully. I was succeeding. I got to the top of the heap in every facet of broadcasting.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): The legend began in 1961. Pat Summerall, 31 at the time, started in radio, and by the late '60s, was sports director of WCBS in New York. He was also host of the morning news show. Listeners already knew Pat from his NFL career. He entered the league in '52 and did double duty - playing tight-end and also kicker. He finished his career with the New York Giants in '61 after playing three championship games…one of those the 1958 loss to Baltimore, known as the 'greatest game ever played.' Summerall excelled as a broadcaster, and his new career provided wild times off the field.

PAT SUMMERALL: It was go, go, go, and laugh and have a good time, and be the first one at the bar and the last one at the bar.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): The life of the party signed a CBS TV contract in 1971 and became the signature voice for golf and tennis for the next two decades. But without question, Pat is most famous for teaming with John Madden for NFL football. For so many, Pat is the voice of Sunday afternoon. The duo spent more than 20 years together in the booth, calling eight Super Bowls and may be the most popular announcing team of all time - so popular that Pat and John were featured voices of PlayStation's hit video game. But America's premier sports announcer had a dark side viewers hadn't met.

One night you'd be out drinking, and the next day you'd be on air?

PAT SUMMERALL: Yes, quite often that happened.

ANDREW KNOX: Did you feel like it was interfering in your broadcasting career?

PAT SUMMERALL: No, I never did. I know it was, but I never did.

ANDREW KNOX: You probably weren't the only one in the business living like that.

PAT SUMMERALL: No, I think almost everyone whose ever been in the business lives like that. That's the nature of the business. In football, there were drinks available everywhere you looked. On a golf tournament, you could find one free anywhere you wanted it. In tennis and NBA basketball, everybody had a hospitality suite, and so you could go there and load up if you wanted to.

ANDREW KNOX: You've said that you're one of the great miracles of all time. What do you mean by that?

PAT SUMMERALL: Well, to take me from where I was, and the life I was leading, to the life I lead now with the church and with the Lord and with Jesus Christ, it's a total, total turn-around.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): Pat is now a dedicated Christian whose turn around began in the wee hours of a blurry morning.

PAT SUMMERALL: I started to throw up one night in Augusta, Ga., in a strange house. I woke up about three o clock in the morning and started to throw up. I'd thrown up before, but I'd never seen anything that looked like that before.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): Friends and family had had enough.

PAT SUMMERALL: People started to say, 'You've got to stop drinking.' And I would say, 'OK, I'll do that. It will be easy.'

ANDREW KNOX: Did you mean it?

PAT SUMMERALL: I meant it, but it wasn't easy. There was an intervention held after that.

ANDREW KNOX: They pulled a fast one on you, right?

Pat SummerallPAT SUMMERALL: Yes, they did. Intervention (laughs) is the fast one. I wasn't very happy about it. There were a couple of things in the intervention that made me know I needed help. One was a letter from my daughter saying that she was ashamed she had the same last name as I did, which will shock you a little bit.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): An angry Pat checked into the Betty Ford Clinic.

PAT SUMMERALL: There the normal stay is 28 days. They kept me 33 days because they said, 'You were so angry for the first five days that they didn't count.'

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): Pat was at a crossroads and made the decision that changed his life.

PAT SUMMERALL: I realized there was a Savior, there was a God. I know what the choice is. I know that Jesus Christ, if He will have me, I'd like him in my life.

ANDREW KNOX: Is Jesus one of the main reasons you've defeated alcohol?

PAT SUMMERALL: I don't think there's any question about it. Once I began to realize His involvement in my life, it was easy. I never had a craving since then.


PAT SUMMERALL: Never, never.

ANDREW KNOX: So it's not like you're fighting the urge?


ANDREW KNOX: That is a miracle.

PAT SUMMERALL: That illustrates what Jesus can do.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): Pat wanted to do something for Jesus. He decided to be baptized.

PAT SUMMERALL: I was standing in the tank with the robe on, and all the rest of the people were little kids (laughs) except me.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): To Pat it was a great experience, but some friends were cynical.

Why would people doubt your sincerity?

Pat Summerall and his wife, CheriePAT SUMMERALL: I think because they knew me and the lifestyle I had before and they think, How can it happen so fast that you come into one of the soldiers of Christ? The first thing I say is, 'You just don't know what it's like. You have to experience yourself. You should accept Christ as your savior and guide.'

I've done a lot of Super Bowls and appeared in a lot of big, big events and places and the Masters and what have you, but there was nothing as intimidating as speaking with Billy Graham.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): Speaking at Billy Graham's crusade was intimidating enough, but Pat was more nervous about meeting Billy himself.

PAT SUMMERALL: Before I could say a word, he said, 'Pat Summerall, I thought I'd never get a chance to meet you, (laughs) which was precisely what I was going to say to him.

ANDREW KNOX: He stole your line.

PAT SUMMERALL: Yes, he did.

ANDREW KNOX (reporting): Pat and his wife, Cheri, begin each morning reading the Bible together.

PAT SUMMERALL: It's entirely different waking up in the morning and praying. I read aloud six or seven different devotional books, one of which is the Bible and ask the Lord to be with me that day.

ANDREW KNOX: It must be quite a change now where you're praying for the Lord to give you guidance during a broadcast, whereas before you thought it was all up to you and you were the one in control of everything.

PAT SUMMERALL: It's a terrific difference, a tremendous difference. It's an indescribable difference, really.

I think as time has passed and people have heard me talk, maybe they identify me as Pat Summerall the Christian. I hope so.

ANDREW KNOX: Who would have thought that 20 years ago?

PAT SUMMERALL: I wouldn't have. (laughs) I certainly wouldn't have.

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