Madden, Summerall Still TV Constants
While other networks keep changing their lead NFL broadcasting teams, Pat Summerall and John Madden have stayed together longer than most marriages.
Since becoming the lead NFC team at CBS on Oct. 4, 1981, Summerall and Madden have worked more than 350 games together. They work their 100th game at Fox on Sunday at Minnesota.
In that time, the lead teams on the AFC and ``Monday Night Football″ packages keep changing, with 16 announcers working since 1981. This season, ABC replaced Frank Gifford with Boomer Esiason, ESPN added Paul Maguire, and CBS started from scratch with Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms.
``It would surprise anyone in the TV business to stay together that long, without someone saying it’s worn out or people getting tired of it″ Summerall said. ``I haven’t heard anyone say that yet.″
There have been a couple of times where football’s top broadcasting duo almost split up _ in 1994, after CBS lost the NFL, and this past offseason, when Madden was under consideration to move to ABC. But they’ve always stayed together.
``I couldn’t imagine working with someone else,″ Summerall said. ``I worked a preseason game with Matt Millen last year and it was comfortable, but it didn’t have that magic.″
Madden worked with five play-by-play announcers at CBS before settling down with Summerall. The understated Summerall has served as Madden’s punctuation mark ever since, making sense out of Madden’s tangents.
``I kind of ramble and don’t make sense a lot of time,″ Madden said. ``He then puts the period at then end of my sentences or a sentence at the end of my paragraphs. He makes sense out of what I say.″
The broadcasting business has changed drastically since Summerall began as an analyst at CBS in 1962 and Madden started in 1979. In fact, Madden makes more money (about $8 million) this year than CBS paid the NFL in Summerall’s first two years ($4.65 million).
But Madden never wanted to be a broadcaster. After retiring as Raiders coach in 1978, Madden turned down CBS’ first approaches for a job. After some convincing from friends, he finally decided to try it. After his first game, he knew he never wanted to go back into coaching.
``I never thought coaching would satisfy my need for playing and it did,″ he said. ``I never thought television would satisfy my need for coaching and it did. If it hadn’t, I would have been back.″
BASEBALL RATINGS: Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa should demand a slice of baseball’s next TV contract.
The great home run race has helped power baseball’s ratings to double-digit gains on all four of its national TV partners. Fox Sports is up 11 percent, ESPN is up 20 percent, FX is up 25 percent and Fox Sports Net is up 19 percent.
``What McGwire and Sosa have done for baseball this year is like what Michael Jordan has done for the NBA the past eight years in terms of TV ratings,″ Fox spokesman Vince Wladika said.
Baseball’s regular season ratings still lag behind the ratings behemoth NFL, which more than triples baseball’s numbers, and the NBA.
NBC got a 4.8 rating for NBA regular season games last year, 55 percent higher than Fox’s Saturday baseball ratings. But NBC’s ratings are 69 percent higher when Jordan plays than when he doesn’t. ESPN’s ratings are 6 percent higher than Turner Sports’ NBA ratings.
Baseball finally seems to have overcome the damage from the 1994-95 labor dispute, that led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. ESPN’s ratings are 6 percent higher than 1993 Fox is within 18 percent of CBS’ that year.
Even more important for baseball, which is in the third year of a five-year $1.7 billion deal, is the sharp increases in young male audience. ESPN has shown a 25 percent gain in the 18-34 male group which has not traditionally been a big baseball audience.
``I think that we have brought in new fans this year and there is an opportunity to keep them,″ said Dick Glover, ESPN’s executive vice president for programming. ``It is too early to make projections about next year, but there are reasons for optimism.″
TUBE BITS: ESPN has added the Cubs-Reds game Sunday at 2 p.m. and will also show live cut-ins of Mark McGwire’s at-bats against the Brewers. On Tuesday, ESPN will show either the Cubs-Brewers or Astros-Cardinals games with live cut-ins of the other game. On Sept. 25, ESPN will show either Cubs-Astros or Expos-Cardinals with updates of the other. On the final day of the season, ESPN and ESPN2 will show various games that impact on either the pennant or home run race. ... Madden is also featured in the latest edition of HBO’s ``Real Sports.″ ... It’s a big week for boxing with three fights on television. HBO offers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez on pay-per-view Friday night. Showtime’s coverage of the Evander Holyfield-Vaughn Bean fight on Saturday night will be available to all cable subscribers as part of the station’s free preview weekend. Holyfield will serve as an analyst Tuesday night as TNT shows its first fight-card ever, featuring Eduardo Morales against Shane Mosley.