TOM JONES' TWO CENTS
Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from Sunday's Super Bowl television coverage.
When you broadcast a Super Bowl, you're not going to please everyone. Football junkies are going to complain that the announcers either are biased or incompetent. And if you're a casual fan (or no fan at all), you complain that the broadcast is too detailed, and therefore kind of boring. The networks can't win.
The best they can do is cover the Super Bowl like it's a football game, which, at the end of the day, is what it is. Sure, it's the biggest sporting and TV event of the year, but it's still just a game. With that in mind, you're always going to get a solid job from CBS and the broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
Whether the job is outstanding likely depends on your attitude toward those two. I've always been lukewarm on Simms and less so with Nantz. But Sunday's game had no gaffes from either, and they were pros throughout by getting excited when the moment called for it, analytical when required and opinionated when necessary.
The real star of CBS's broadcast was the direction and production. There were eye-pleasing, informative graphics; judicious but pertinent use of replays; entertaining bells and whistles, such as well-timed use of players wearing microphones and the pylon-cam; and good use (but not overuse) of sideline reporters.
All in all, CBS gets a B for its coverage. Considering the Super Bowl is so hard to cover, that's not a bad grade. But I'm already looking forward to someone else (Fox) doing it next season simply because I prefer Joe Buck and Troy Aikman over Nantz and Simms.
Nothing was more touching than CBS's pregame feature about a 15-year-old Tennessee high school football player, Zaevion Dobson, who was killed when he jumped on top of three girls and shielded them from being shot in a drive-by a few months ago. "Sad, but knowing what he stood for made me very proud of him," his mother said in the piece. "His legacy will live on. I hope when you hear his name, you will smile."
Best ruined feature
CBS turned in a nice feature about the six living broadcasters who have called play-by-play for the Super Bowl. The best anecdote was Dick Enberg recalling Super Bowl XVII when there was three-second delay in the audio during the first quarter. So while he talked, he heard what he and partner Merlin Olsen (far left) were saying three seconds earlier. It was a terrific walk down memory lane with some of the all-time greats. It's too bad that Jim Nantz, in an interview after the feature with CBS's James Brown, turned a wonderful feature about some of the greatest announcers in the business into a five-minute speech about how all things revolve around him, including the recent birth of his son. Brown said, "A snapshot into the man, Jim Nantz." More like a snapshot into egomania run amok.
Most important person
Great job by CBS in its profile of former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. The piece was narrated by Rozelle's daughter, Anne Marie Bratton. In the story, former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt said, "The reason this game is where it is now is because of Pete Rozelle."
After the feature, CBS host James Brown interviewed current commissioner Roger Goodell and did a nice job asking the right questions, including about concussions, what he would say to mothers who might not let their sons play football and the Peyton Manning-HGH story.
Most pleasantly surprising
CBS sprinkled in its pregame show vignettes about various important figures in NFL history, but it was really cool to hear Patriots coach Bill Belichick talk so glowingly about the late Ed and Steve Sabol, the father-and-son team that founded NFL Films. Belichick summed it up perfectly by saying that for many, NFL Films is as responsible for their love of the game as anything. Oh, speaking of which, in case you missed it, Sam Spence, the longtime composer of the iconic music for NFL Films, died Saturday. He was 88.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama did a live interview together during the pregame show. CBS This Morning's Gayle King conducted the relaxed Q & A. It was a little too relaxed, but that was the plan. King and CBS decided to save policy questions for a separate interview with the president that was expected to run on CBS This Morning.
It's never easy deciding how to handle the presidential interview for the Super Bowl show. There probably isn't enough time to get in-depth on critical topics, and many believe the Super Bowl is neither the time nor the place to dig into important issues. Then again, ignoring pertinent subjects seems like wasting an opportunity, especially when the networks never have a chance to talk to the president in front of a television audience that big. So the interview ends up being fluff. Because of that, the networks need to think about getting rid of the presidential interview. Seems as if the only reason they do them anymore is because they can, and that's not really a good enough reason.
What would have happened if the Bills' Scott Norwood had made the kick that would have won Super Bowl XXV against the Giants in Tampa? CBS put together a fantasy piece about what might have happened had he made it. In it, the Bills went on to win four straight Super Bowls instead of losing four, and then-Bills coach Marv Levy, QB Jim Kelly, RB Thurman Thomas and pass rusher Bruce Smith were "interviewed" about the feat. Good? Not so much. Just weird.
Good to see Ian Eagle and Amy Trask on the pregame coverage. Only complaint: They weren't on enough, especially Trask, a former Raiders CEO. She's terrific.
Snickers' "You're Not You When You're Hungry" ads never get old, and add Willem Dafoe/Marilyn Monroe (above) to the top of the list. … Jeff Goldblum singing The Jeffersons theme song for apartments.com? Yep, I'm down with that. … Steve Harvey not making a mistake for T-Mobile was good stuff. ... Most clever: Prius car chase.
The Hyundai bears commercial. Talking bears? Really? … The Doritos baby-being-born commercial started off amusing, then turned way too predictable. … So driving an Audi is the same as driving a rocket to the moon? I seriously doubt that. … Still trying to recover from being creeped out by the Mountain Dew Kickstart puppy-monkey-baby thing. … I like Seth Rogen. And I like Amy Schumer. So why do I hate their Bud Light commercials?
Most awesome and sad
How awesome was it to see the introduction of past Super Bowl MVPs before the game? But how sad was it to see how very few of them can walk without a limp? It was amazing that of the 50 MVPs in 49 Super Bowls, the only one no longer alive is Super Bowl XII co-MVP Harvey Martin of the Cowboys, who died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 51.
CBS said, "It's almost time" for the halftime show with 9:19 left in the first quarter. Then it repeated the "almost time" heads-up with 8:22 left in the first quarter. … ESPN and the NFL Network, had solid days with their pregame shows. But among the lowlights: The ESPN panelists had a conversation about race (in regards to Panthers QB Cam Newton) that really didn't say anything more than some people out there are racists. … Odd, but you could occasionally hear the director's voice ever so lightly over the air. Not sure if that was intentional, but I kind of liked it.
Three things that popped into my head
1 You just knew it. At 6:25 p.m., less than 10 minutes before kickoff, we saw the first ad for "The Masters, a tradition unlike any other." The real tradition is CBS jamming the Masters down our throats two months before the tournament. Sigh.
2 Best part of the weekend: The announcement that former Bucs coach Tony Dungy is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I'm a bit surprised but not at all disappointed.
3 Bad news: Football season is over. Good news: Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks.