Growing up as an avid fan of not only the NFL, but of the Madden video game franchise, it should come as no surprise I was a big time fan of the late Pat Summerall. He is my favorite all-time broadcaster and inarguably the greatest football broadcaster to ever speak into a microphone.
What made him so special? Well, what made him great can also be used as lessons in today’s social media world.
1) Story telling: I guess this is the most obvious point, but it cannot be under-stated. His ability to tell a story from beginning to end like you were there is a quality many broadcasters have, but Summerall was a cut above the rest. Over the last few years as twitter has become more main stream with non-public figures tweeting their every day lives, the art of story telling has taken a hit. I’m not saying stories aren’t being told on twitter, but the quality of the stories aren’t what they could be if more people put some more thought into their posts. No more of this “Good morning everyone! I think I’ll have Frosted Flakes this morning!” crap.
2) Less is more: Montana…Rice…touchdown. How many times over his career did his touchdown calls sound something like that? Fairly often. Despite its brevity it still remains as one of the best touchdown calls of all time. This mostly applies to twitter but it can also apply to other social media sites…don’t be verbose! Use as few words as possible while still getting your point across or your story told. No one stops and reads a 300 word facebook post, so give yourself a few extra minutes to construct something that people will actually read.
“What he did is very difficult to do,” said Bob Stenner, the producer of the Madden-Summerall team at CBS and Fox. “He had a gift. It’s hard to say a lot in a minimal amount of words.”
3) Smile! Yes, literally smile. One of the first pointers taught to me back in my days as a Sport Media major at Ithaca College was to smile while you talk. Whether Summerall was behind the mic or chatting it up with friends in a nearby bar (as he was prone to do), everyone always remarks he was the life of the party and always made the people he was with feel like their best friend. Here’s an exercise for you: smile while you type out your next post and see how it goes. We humans have this ability to pick up voice and facial expressions, and even though this is online, common logic would think we can sense it here, right? Maybe not, but hey it doesn’t hurt! You probably can imagine what facial expression I’m using right now. So smile!
4) Be genuine. We can all spot a phony. We can see a mile away someone who doesn’t truly feel what they’re saying or typing. Summerall was 100% heart. No one loved the game and the art of broadcasting more than he did and it showed. Same goes to us in the online world: be genuine. If you try to be someone you’re not we’ll know…guaranteed.
5) Pick your spots to be controversial. For those of us that watched Summerall for years, how many “controversial” statements do you think he made? I can probably count them on one hand in his almost 60 years in the business. That’s not to say he just lobbed cream puffs and never put himself out there, it’s because when he did it was said with conviction and was well-defended with facts, thought and strong consideration of everyone involved. Now-a-days, there’s a lot of baseless name-calling with people spewing utter ridiculousness that doesn’t deserve the light of day.
Pat Summerall didn’t tweet the most recent Super Bowl, but if he did it would have gone something like “Flacco…Boldin…touchdown,” and that would have been more than enough.