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Super Bowl Shooting from the Lip

St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

The Super Bowl

There are two ways a network can go about broadcasting a Super Bowl. One is to make it all about the actual game, just like it was a game in October or November. The other is to treat it like a special event, a television extravaganza, because there are millions upon millions who are watching their only football game of the year. Fox went the right way by covering it as a game because the millions of novices likely are watching the game at a party or a bar and not really paying attention to the broadcasters anyway. The folks who don't care about football watch the game for the other stuff — the national anthem, the halftime show, the commercials.

NBC's Al Michaels and John Madden had the gold standard of broadcasts back at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa two years ago, but they benefitted from one of the great all-time Super Bowl games as Pittsburgh beat Arizona 27-23 on a last-minute touchdown.

On Sunday, Fox's Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were solid. They were good, not great. But good is good enough for a big game and better than trying to do too much and falling flat. Buck and Aikman did what football fans wanted them to do: be accurate, be concise and make football the focus instead of trying to put on a show.

The direction and production were solid, too. There's a tendency for directors to dial up way too many replays and graphics for big games, but Sunday's production saved the replays and graphics for the right moments. Instead of dominating the broadcast with replays of insignificant plays or pointless statistics, the production team used them to enhance the broadcast.

All in all, a good effort by Fox.

Other Super Bowl thoughts

• Usually, sideline reporters don't add much to a broadcast, but with a slew of injuries, sideline reporters Chris Meyers and Pam Oliver provided quick updates and useful information throughout the broadcast.

• Fox broke out some new tricks, and one that didn't work all that well was the graphic that introduced the starting players. They were set up like banners waving in the wind and it was a tad difficult for viewers to read the players' names, especially for those who don't know the Packers and Steelers all that well.

• Best interview of the day went to Fox's Terry Bradshaw, the former Steelers quarterback who interviewed current Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Usually, I don't care about the personal relationship between the interviewer and interviewee, but in this case, it was provocative because Bradshaw, top right, and Roethlisberger have had a chilly relationship in the past. The interview ended in interesting fashion as the two shook hands with Bradshaw saying it was important to him to have a connection to Roethlisberger because of their shared history with the Steelers organization.

• Worst interview was Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Barack Obama. It wasn't because of the questions by O'Reilly, top left, or Obama's answers or anything to do with the conversation. It just has become a tired format, interviewing the president right before kickoff. The idea, on the surface, makes sense because so many people are watching. But it's unlikely viewers are interested in mixing politics with sports. The reading of the Declaration of Independence works, but Super Bowl Sunday is a day for football, not politics, at least on the Super Bowl broadcast.

• Best pregame information came from Fox NFL rules expert Mike Pereira, who revealed that officials meet with coaches to find out if the coaches have any trick plays or peculiar formations to watch for. For example, Pereira pointed out that Saints coach Sean Payton, right, told officials before last year's Super Bowl that his team likely would try an onside kick at some point, and the Saints did to start the second half. It also needs to be mentioned again that Fox's hiring of Pereira was, by far, the most innovative move in sports television of the past year.

• Fox didn't spend much time on it, but it did mention the incident of this past offseason when Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was accused of assaulting a woman in a bar in Georgia. You get the feeling Fox mentioned it just so it wouldn't be criticized for not mentioning it.

• Those "Sounds of the game'' segments never seem to work as well in reality as they do in theory.

Worst analogy

Will someone please tell NFL player union boss DeMaurice Smith to stop using the word "war'' when referring to the labor unrest between the players and NFL owners? Before sitting through his next negotiation session with a table full of Perrier and fresh fruit while talking about how to divvy up billions of dollars, Smith can go hang out in Afghanistan or Iraq for a couple of weeks. Then, perhaps, he could get some much-needed perspective.

Most touching moment

Ever since 9/11, Fox has included a reading of the Declaration of Independence in its Super Bowl pregame coverage. Before it airs, it seems like such a hokey idea, but then you can't help be touched when you watch it. This year, like the others, included a diverse list of those delivering the Declaration, including former NFLers Jim Plunkett, Art Donovan, Anthony Munoz, left, and Bart Starr, current stars Hines Ward and Charles Woodson and, of course, members of the U.S. military. Not only is it a superb reminder of what actually is written in the Declaration of Independence, but in a strange way, it shows how much football has become a part of Americana.

Worst behavior

Apparently, CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms and ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard had harsh words at the Super Bowl over the weekend. Simms was perturbed because Howard made some derogatory on-air comments about Phil's son Matt, a quarterback at Tennessee, last season. Howard wrote on his Twitter that Simms wanted to punch him and he told Simms "Let's go!''

Two things. One, being an analyst himself, Simms should know as well as anyone that it's Howard's job to give honest analysis on television. He shouldn't have become bent out of shape. But, two, Howard came off as a bit of a dweeb by tweeting the whole episode like he was running to the teacher about some kid picking on him in the schoolyard.

Favorite analyst

Listening to Lightning home games on the radio is such a blast because of Phil Esposito's color commentary. He says what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Take Sunday, when he complained about how Steven Stamkos flipped a pass into the bench on a Lightning power play.

"All that room out there and you put it into the bench?'' Esposito said. "Come on, man. That's just not thinking. You have to do better than that.''

Sometimes listeners would rather listen to stuff like that than the X-and-O breakdown of the neutral-zone trap. Not too many analysts, even on the national level, give straight talk quite like Espo.

Three things that popped into my head

1. You really can't have a beef with any of those elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, but it is still baffling that wide receiver Cris Carter still hasn't gained entrance.

2. Voters got it right by unanimously picking Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, as NFL MVP. No player deserved a first-place vote over Brady.

3. The best thing about the Super Bowl is it's over and we don't have to wade through any more pre-Super Bowl hype. Geez, that's the longest two weeks of the year, isn't it?

Super Bowl Shooting from the Lip 02/06/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 6, 2011 11:13pm]
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