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SPORTS: Pat Summerall recounts God’s grace

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Pat Summerall and his broadcasting partner Tom Brookshier once tried to get a horse into their hotel room.

They were riding a horse-drawn carriage back to their hotel in New York, and invited the Irish driver upstairs with them for a party.

“What am I gonna do with me horse?” the man asked.

“Bring the horse,” Summerall replied.

And so the trio of men escorted the horse up the stairs to the hotel’s rear entrance. Hotel security managed to stop them before they actually got the horse through the door.

Another time, Summerall and Brookshier were at a party when Brookshier noticed the piano player was wearing a bad toupee. Before Summerall could object, Brookshier dove over the top of the piano and ripped the toupee off the man’s head, then proudly carried it back to show Summerall.

While humorous, these stories show how two grown men can act like juveniles when they’re drunk. For Summerall and Brookshier, stories like this were not uncommon.

In his new book, “Summerall: On and Off the Air,” Summerall describes in detail how an addiction to alcohol ruined his life. He ultimately shut out the world around him.

“It got to the point that we never wanted to go home,” Summerall writes. “When we did return, we spent as little time at home as possible. We did most of our broadcast work on the weekends, but we usually hit the road on Wednesdays and often didn’t come home until Tuesday. We didn’t have home lives. When we were there, we chafed at the expectations and responsibilities. We had become addicted to the celebrity lifestyle we led on the road. The drinking and the partying got to be a habitual thing.”

Summerall alienated his wife and children, and he almost drank himself to death. Fortunately, Summerall’s friends and family cared about him too much to let him do that.

In 1992, they staged an intervention on Summerall’s behalf, encouraging him to get professional help for his alcohol problems. He chafed at the idea and burned with anger throughout the intervention as his friends took turns speaking.

Finally Brookshier, his old drinking buddy, read a letter from Summerall’s daughter Susan.

“I hadn’t been there much for my kids, but Susan’s letter made it clear that I’d hurt them even in my absence,” Summerall writes. “She recounted one incident after another. I was numb to most of it, sad to say. Yet, her final words made my knees buckle: ‘Dad, the few times we’ve been out in public together recently, I’ve been ashamed we shared the same last name….’”

Summerall began weeping tears of regret and reluctantly agreed to enter rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic.

It was a decision that changed his life. At the clinic, Summerall not only found freedom from alcohol. He also encountered the grace of God.

“My thirst for alcohol was being replaced by a thirst for knowledge about faith and God,” Summerall writes. “I began reading the Bible regularly at the treatment center, and it became a part of my daily routine. The more I read, the more I felt a void in my life that needed to be filled.”

Summerall’s book is his life’s story — from his childhood days in Florida, to his college years in Arkansas, to his professional football career, to his experience in the broadcast booth. It’s entertaining and interesting, and sports fans will find it enjoyable.

But most of all, Summerall’s book is a story of redemption, and how a man who nearly threw his life away found it restored through Jesus Christ.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BP Sports, online at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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