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SPORTS: Pat Summerall’s salvation

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–Alcohol destroyed Pat Summerall’s liver, and it almost destroyed his life.

One of the most recognized sports broadcasters in the country, Summerall had a liver transplant just over a month ago. Years of heavy drinking had rendered his liver practically useless.

Fortunately for Summerall, a compatible donor provided for his physical salvation, and Summerall’s recovery from the procedure is progressing well.

“I feel a tremendous sense of obligation to whoever it was, to live two lives, not just one,” Summerall said recently in a New York Times story. “It’s a terrible thing to say I’m indebted to someone you don’t know or where they’re from.”

As important as the liver transplant was for Summerall, however, it wasn’t as vital as another transformation that took place in his life a few years ago.

“I had been getting sick a lot, throwing up blood — and I got sick again at 4 a.m.,” Summerall recalled in a Sports Spectrum story.” I looked in the mirror, and the lights started to glow brighter until I saw what a terrible sight I was. I said to myself, ‘This is not the way I want to live.'”

After bottoming out from his alcohol addiction, Summerall spent 33 days in the Betty Ford Center in California. Shortly after leaving the center, Summerall realized that alcohol wasn’t the biggest problem in his life. Some close friends — including former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry and Cowboys chaplain John Weber — helped Summerall understand the importance of his spiritual well-being.

Summerall became a Christian at age 69 and was baptized at First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

“I went down in the water, and when I came up it was like a 40-pound weight had been lifted from me,” Summerall said. “I have a happier life, a healthy life and a more positive feeling about life than ever before.”

Summerall’s story provides another sad example of the evils of alcohol abuse. It’s a problem that’s far too common, and one that costs the lives of thousands of people each year.

As much effort as we put into educating kids about those dangers, the return on the investment is minimal. Alcohol abuse is rampant among teenagers, and the problem seems only to be getting worse.

But in addition to a warning about the destructive potential of alcohol, Summerall’s story also provides a compelling picture of redemption, and a reminder that nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

No matter how messed up a life may be, and no matter how wasted it may seem, God can work wonders with those who appear to be hopeless. Summerall is proof of that, and he’s likely still alive today because of it.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BPSports, on the Web at www.bpsports.net. Visit his weblog at www.thewinningspirit.blogspot.com.

    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.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›