The NFL world was deep in mourning yesterday with the loss of hard-drinking, deep-voiced legend of broadcasting, Pat Summerall. As the tributes began to pour in, one thing people had a hard time pining down was why a man whose given name was George Allen Summerall went by Pat. For the answer to that, we turn to Cardinals beat writer, Kent Somers:
The Cardinals have files on many of their former players and for years they kept a questionnaire Summerall filled out while with the team. In it, George Allen Summerall explained, sort of, how he became know as “Pat.”
The form read something like this:
Reason for nickname: Lived with a cousin named Mike
That’s all it said. That made no sense to me, nor to Mark Dalton, Cardinals vice president of media relations. So Dalton asked Summerall about it.
“You know, ‘Pat and Mike,’” Summerall said.
It still didn’t make sense. Then Summerall explained that when he was a kid “Pat and Mike” were characters in jokes about the Irish.
Here’s how Summerall explained the nickname’s origin it to the Dallas Morning News.
Summerall was born in rural central Florida on May 10, 1930, after his parents had divorced. He was taken in and raised by an aunt and uncle. They had a son named Mike.
“In those days, people liked to tell ethnic jokes,” Summerall told The News in in 1997. “Invariably when they got around to the Irish jokes, the characters would be Pat and Mike. My aunt and uncle just started calling me Pat to go with their Mike.”
I’m not sure I agree with the suggestion that people don’t like to tell ethnic jokes anymore. It’s the business model of this site! Still, a pretty awesome anecdote. And perhaps explains some of the drinking later in life.