On Sunday, the Super Bowl was played in New Orleans for the tenth time, tying with Miami as the most times a city has hosted the Big Game. And in a city that is known for voodoo and the macabre, the tenth time in the Crescent City turned out to the most bizarre of any Super Bowl. Having to deal with a 35 minute blackout that was caused by a power surge, CBS had to scramble to cover the incident without its main voices, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as electricity to the broadcast booth was cut.
For a network that normally doesn’t utilize sideline reporters, CBS had to rely on Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots to carry the broadcast until the studio crew of James Brown, Bill Cowher, Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe was ready to fill. Up until the power outage, CBS was having a decent broadcast.
Replays were sharp. The production was going well. Jim Nantz was Jim Nantz, calling a good game. However, Phil Simms was missing and perhaps CBS needed to issue an Amber Alert for him as he did not have his best broadcast. Simms did not step up for a big game, a rarity for him. Normally in the upper echelon of NFL analysts, Simms had a pedestrian performance. Several times Nantz tried to set up him, but instead, we received silence from Simms. I’m not sure what was going on in the booth.
On a fake field goal attempt by the Baltimore Ravens, Simms did not give an opinion on whether the failure would hurt the team at the end of the game nor if he felt it was warranted.
Also, Simms did not offer an opinion on a controversial non-call whether a 4th and goal attempt by the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the game was a penalty until three or four replays were aired.
Normally, an analyst who is on top of trends and a very good first guesser, Simms was behind on plays and seemed to be aloof. I hope this is a one-time thing for Simms. I normally like him, but I was wondering what happened to him on Super Bowl XLVII.
Back to the power outage, CBS had to fill 35 minutes. Highlights were used a couple of times, however, viewers were subjected to Cowher, Marino and Sharpe talking over each other. Boomer Esiason, normally a part of the CBS studio crew, was on the Dial Global Radio broadcast and thus, was not part of this portion of the telecast. And during this segment, we got our one and only glimpse of Tracy Wolfson during the game as she reported on the power outage. Why wasn’t she utilized more?
In addition, a big fail to the NFL for not providing a spokesman to CBS to provide comments and updates as to when the game would resume. Producers in the truck fed information to James Brown and he informed viewers on the resumption of the Super Bowl.
When the game resumed, CBS’ production which was at a B minus grade continued at that level.
CBS set a standard for sports opens with a fantastic production utilizing past Super Bowl MVP’s such as Joe Namath and Lynn Swann, set to a remixed “We Will Rock You” and NFL on CBS theme.
For the Super Bowl Today pregame, CBS provided the usual client strokes to Ritz Crackers in a painful segment featuring butcher Rachel Ray and to Pizza Hut. The show did offer a frank discussion on concussions following a feature on player safety. Also Esiason offered strong opinions in the last 35 minutes of the four hour pregame on Ray Lewis doubting his denials in a 2000 double stabbing in Atlanta.
Its best features were on the Ravens’ OJ Brigance who has ALS and on 49ers’ tight end Vernon Davis. Another strong feature was on Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch pointed out that CBS did not rely on silly celebrity red carpet interviews that had plagued Fox’s and NBC’s pregames over the last two years. Let us hope that Fox won’t bring them back in 2014 when Super Bowl XLVIII is played in New Jersey.
Greg Gumbel was a welcome addition to the Super Bowl Today hosting one panel at CBS’ Super Bowl headquarters in New Orleans with James Brown at the Superdome. Guest analysts Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks all showed promise if they choose to go to television after their playing careers are over.
CBS receives a B minus for the pregame.
For the postgame, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh refused to an interview, the second consecutive game in which he refused to speak to the networks. The NFL’s TV partners pay a lot of money for access and I’m sure he’ll be “advised” by the league to do his part should he be in the same position next season. Shannon Sharpe who criticized Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship for not providing an interview to CBS, did not have time on the main network to do the same to Harbaugh and I’m not sure if he criticized him on the extended postgame on CBS Sports Network.
So it’s another NFL season in the books. We do know that NBC will cover the 2013 season opener in Baltimore in September. We’ll be ready to cover the TV networks then.