The NFL’s voices

This is the 100th anniversary season of the National Football League, so the Associated Press decided to create a list of top NFL announcers.

I’m going to modify the AP’s list, because there are two that deserve a separate category, and this doesn’t mention an additional category that needs mention:

While fans of some sports all have their favorite local announcers, the NFL has been much more of a shared viewing experience.

With all games being shown on national networks rather than solely on local channels, the most memorable voices of football are universal.

There were the early voices of the game such as Curt Gowdy and Ray Scott; the unique combination of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford in prime time; to years of Pat Summerall’s brevity punctuated by John Madden’s boisterous interjections.

Everyone has a style they prefer, from Tony Romo’s role as Nostradamus to the exuberance of Gus Johnson and Kevin Harlan to the understated style of men such as Summerall and Scott.

Here’s a look at some of the iconic voices of the NFL:

CURT GOWDY

A versatile announcer nicknamed the Cowboy who started off as Mel Allen’s partner on Yankees radio broadcasts, Gowdy was one of the original voices of the AFL on ABC when the league started in 1960. He moved on to NBC in 1965 and was in the booth for some of the most memorable games in pro football history. He called the first Super Bowl for NBC; the “Heidi” game in 1968; Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl 3; and the Immaculate Reception. ABC wanted to hire Gowdy as the original voice of “Monday Night Football,” but NBC wouldn’t let him out of his contract. His final Super Bowl broadcast came when Pittsburgh beat Dallas for the title following the 1978 season before he was traded to CBS to create an opening for Enberg to become the lead voice of the NFL on NBC. Gowdy had few catch phrases but was known for colorful descriptions.

MERLIN OLSEN

The Hall of Fame defensive tackle went on to have a long career as the top analyst at NBC, working alongside greats Gowdy and Enberg during the 1970s and ’80s and calling five Super Bowls. A physical presence on the Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line, Olsen was more soft spoken as an announcer. He never tried to overshadow the game and was a comfortable listen throughout his career.

The former defensive tackle for the New York Giants became perhaps the most respected analyst of the early Super Bowl era. Working for years alongside Gowdy on NBC’s top team, DeRogatis was known for his ability to describe what happened even before a replay and helped millions of fans better understand the game. He worked three Super Bowls, including Joe Namath’s guarantee game in January 1969.

The first place I differ from this list is that there are two who need to be in both analyst and play-by-play roles, because they did both.

PAT SUMMERALL

Summerall transitioned from a successful playing career to the booth in the 1960s and became the voice of the NFL. He started off as an analyst and was part of the first Super Bowl broadcast. He shifted to a play-by-play role in 1974 at CBS and that’s where he really shined. With an economy of words and understated persona, he helped analysts Madden and Tom Brookshier shine. A call of a big TD for Summerall could be as simple as “Montana … Rice … Touchdown.” He announced a record 16 Super Bowls on network television and contributed to 10 on the radio as well.

FRANK GIFFORD

The Hall of Fame running back went on to have a career as one of the most versatile announcers in football history. Gifford started broadcasting following his first retirement when he was knocked out on a hit by Chuck Bednarik. He retired for good following the 1964 season and returned to CBS as a broadcaster, where he was an analyst for the Ice Bowl and the first Super Bowl, and a sideline reporter on two more Super Bowls. He then moved to ABC in 1971 where he shifted to a play-by-play role on “Monday Night Football,” often playing the straight man to Cosell and Meredith. Gifford then moved back to the analyst chair in 1986 when Michaels took over and remained in that role for more than a decade. Gifford and Summerall are the only announcers to call a Super Bowl as both play-by-play man and analyst.

The broadcasts are not what they’ve been were it not for the pregame shows, headed by Brent Musburger when he was at CBS …

… and postgame, led by ESPN’s Chris Berman:

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