Shooting from the lip/Feb. 8 Super Bowl edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Super Bowl coverage
If you already didn't know it was the Super Bowl, you wouldn't have known it was the Super Bowl listening to the call of CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Nantz and Simms treated Sunday like a football game, which, after all, is what it was.
It's likely that more than half of the projected 100 million viewers were not avid or even casual football fans, and the easy mistake broadcasters can make is to dummy down the call of the game. But those who aren't football fans aren't really interested in the actual call of the game, are they?
Nantz and Simms played it straight and, seeing as how they're among the best in the business, that was more than good enough for the football fans. The direction and production were top-notch, there were no gaffes, and the pregame and halftime studio shows were solid, although a little loud at times. Overall, not as well done as the job NBC did last season, but still pretty good. It sometime lacked that feel of a "big event'' but it's better to error on the side of understatement than creating too much hype.
The best commercial of the Super Bowl was, hands down, the Snickers ad featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing pickup football. Hey, any commercial that has White saying, "That's not what your girlfriend said'' is an instant classic in my book. Other commercials I liked: Monster.com with the violin-playing beaver, the Hyundai ad with a 50-year-old Brett Favre debating retirement and the Megan Fox Motorola commercial. And while it was funny, wasn't it strange to see Jay Leno doing a commercial promoting the Late Show with David Letterman, especially with Leno set to return opposite Letterman? Also, while it was more self-serving than it let on, it still was cool that Miller High Life used its ad to feature small businesses.
Budweiser had a bad day with the house made of Bud Light and plane-crash survivors who would rather drink beer than find a way off the island. Doritos missed the mark with the stupid ad about the man who faked his own death so he could be in a casket full of Doritos and an equally silly ad with a man being shocked by his dog's collar. Maybe it's me, but funerals and people being shocked by electric dog collars don't seem all that funny. And the Dockers commercial with the men walking around with no pants wasn't funny. It was gross. Finally, Boost Mobile managed a major coup by reuniting some of the 1985 Bears for a takeoff on the old Super Bowl Shuffle and they couldn't come up with anything better than what they came up with?
Most talked-about commercial
For all the fuss over the Tim Tebow commercial with his mom sponsored by Focus on the Family, it turned out to be pretty innocuous.
Whether you liked the halftime show obviously depended on whether you like The Who. Since The Who is part of m-m-my generation, count me as a fan of the show as they plowed through a medley of some of their greatest hits. It didn't rival past Super Bowl halftime shows such as U2, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, whose 2007 show remains the gold standard. Still, we all should be glad that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey didn’t die before they grew old.
The gang on the Sports Reporters points out that Emmitt Smith, elected Saturday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, might remain the NFL's leading rusher forever. It seems like all records are made to be broken, but the NFL has changed so much that Smith's record of 18,355 yards might never be broken. These days, teams like to alternate between two featured running backs and would rather throw the ball than run it anyway. And these days it seems as if even the top running backs have a short shelf life.
Think about it. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, the leading active rusher, has 12,490 yards. He's already 30 years old and looks to be running out of steam. Even if he averages 1,800 yards a year for the next three years (and he has only reached that number once in his career -- in 2006) he would still be 465 yards short of Smith. The Titans' Chris Johnson has 3,234 in his first two seasons, meaning he still needs more than 15,000 yards. Only three players in all of history -- Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders -- have rushed for even 15,000 yards.
The Penguins ran out of steam and blew a two-goal third-period lead to the Capitals in a 5-4 overtime loss on NBC's NHL Game of the Week on Sunday afternoon. That was no surprise considering the Penguins' bizarre trip to Washington. The Penguins played an afternoon game in Montreal on Saturday but couldn't fly to Washington because of the blizzard that dumped 32 inches of snow on the nation’s capital. In fact, NBC analyst Ed Olczyk never did make it to the game.
So the Penguins flew to Newark, N.J., on Saturday night, then took a bus to Washington. They arrived at their hotel at 2:30 a.m., and the puck was dropped at noon. You have to wonder if the game would have been postponed were it not a highly anticipated showdown between Alex Ovechkin's Caps and Sidney Crosby's Pens scheduled for NBC. Washington's Verizon Center is available tonight, and neither the Capitals nor Penguins play again until Wednesday. The game could have been moved to tonight.
The NHL's stance is if fans can get to the game without risking their safety, the show will go on.
The Penguins' trip did produce one neat story that NBC told. Because of the hasty travel arrangements, the Penguins went several hours without eating. During the late-night bus ride through the snow-covered Northeast, the Penguins found the only place that was open and could serve them dinner: Burger King.
Three thumbs up
1. Good call by NFL Network to remove Warren Sapp from its Super Bowl coverage the day after he was charged when police said he choked a woman early Saturday morning. Even if he is proved innocent, the network couldn't risk having him on Sunday.
2. Excellent interview by CBS's Bill Cowher with imprisoned receiver Plaxico Burress during the Super Bowl preview show, though I could've done without Cowher telling Burress that no one was pulling for him more than he was. It was especially interesting that Cowher was the coach in Pittsburgh when the Steelers didn't make a strong effort to re-sign Burress in 2005.
3. After the Burress interview, the CBS panelists offered their thoughts, mostly saying they hoped Burress was back on the right track. But it was refreshing to see Boomer Esiason say he had "mixed emotions'' about the interview and that Burress' prison sentence on gun-possession charges was not the only time Burress had off-the-field issues.
Three thumbs down
1. Illinois basketball fans rushed the court after the Illini’s upset of Michigan State on Saturday night. Come on, your team is 16-8 and you rush the court after beating the fifth-ranked team in the country, a team that had already lost four times before Saturday and was coming off a loss?
2. Geez, what has happened with UCLA basketball? The Bruins lost by 14 at home to Cal on Saturday and dropped to 11-12 on the season.
3. Pretty shady of Florida State to wait until Sunday -- Super Bowl Sunday -- to announce it was vacating 12 football victories and a 2007 men’s track national championship in an academic cheating scandal.