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So many Super Bowl stories, yet few reach air

Times staff writer Tom Jones spent Tuesday talking to NBC’s team that will broadcast Sunday’s Super Bowl. Here are some highlights.

This is a football

There are three types of viewers for Sunday’s Super Bowl. One is the die-hard Steelers or Cardinals fan. The next is the general football fan. The third is someone who hasn’t watched a game since last year’s Super Bowl and doesn’t know the difference between the Big Ben in London and the Big Ben in Pittsburgh.

Welcome to the world of Al Michaels, who will call play-by-play for the game.

It’s his job to keep the die-hards and novices interested at the same time.

“You have to find that middle ground,’’ Michaels said. “You can’t go do Kurt Warner’s life story in the middle of the game. You just can’t. You have to find little nuances, little sidebars off the main story to make it interesting for those watching their first game and yet not tick off the true football fan.’’ That said, NBC has a playbook, so to speak, with stories on practically every player and coach — and most will never be told on the air.

“My partner, John Madden, has a great description of going into a game,’’ Michaels said. “You go in prepared, you have everything available to you. John says, 'You have all of this information and all of a sudden a game breaks out.’ Your best story might be about the second-string defensive back, but if that guy doesn’t play a significant role in the game, we will never get there, nor should we.’’

Costas on the Rays

Yes, it’s Super Bowl week. And, yes, Bob Costas will host NBC’s pregame show. But Costas, whose passion lies with baseball, took a moment to talk about the amazing run by the 2008 Rays.

“I think they were a great story,’’ Costas said. “They were a dynamic team to watch. There was a certain team energy about them. And you like to see guys like (manager) Joe Maddon get rewarded.

“On the other hand, they’re in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox. There’s going to come a point where the money is just going to become overwhelming. You can catch lightning in a bottle. You can even do some resourceful things like signing Evan Longoria to a long-term deal before he becomes arbitration eligible. But they can’t hope to hold their team together the same way the Red Sox and Yankees can, let alone add to the team the way those teams can. If they were in the American League Central, they might be a contender for the next five or six years. I don’t know that they can do that in the American League East.’’

Michaels and Madden

HBO’s Real Sports recently produced a piece on NBC broadcaster Al Michaels and in it, John Madden revealed that he would never work with another partner after Michaels.

“I was very blown away by that,’’ Michaels said. “I thought that was a beautiful thing for John to have said. And I was very touched by it.’’

Madden’s eventual successor

John Madden has been in broadcasting since retiring as an NFL coach in 1979, and this will be his 11th Super Bowl. He said he has no plans to retire, but Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, confirmed that he has Madden’s successor in mind.

“The person who would be John’s successor would be Cris (Collinsworth),’’ Ebersol said. “I wish I could clone Cris at that point in time, but I told him that if John ever decided to retire, he would be in that spot. (But) I know at this point that John Madden has no intention of (retiring). … I would be devastated if John decided to stop doing it, but if he did, Cris would be his successor.’’

Upsetting possibilities

How incredible would it be for the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl? “It would be, probably, the least likely Super Bowl winner in the public’s mind since the Jets in Super Bowl III,’’ Bob Costas said. “Although, at this point, I don’t think the public considers it as unlikely if the Cardinals win this game. But at the beginning of the playoffs, and at the beginning of the season, if you said, 'Name five teams that have little or no chance to make it to the Super Bowl,’ I think the Cardinals would have been a consensus choice to make that list. Whereas the Steelers would be one of the five teams most likely to make it to the Super Bowl.’’

Tough gig

With nearly 5,000 media people from more than 600 news organizations trying to get scoops, there might be no one with a tougher job than sideline reporter Andrea Kremer. It’s her job, essentially, to provide information that hasn’t been reported.

“Once the game starts, though, we’re doing something no one else is doing,’’ Kremer said. “We really approach it like the players. When kickoff comes, it’s just another game.’’

So many Super Bowl stories, yet few reach air 01/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 9:37am]
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