Mixed performance at best for CBS in Super Bowl telecast
Musings from a Super Bowl Sunday on the couch:
This was hardly the way CBS wanted its Super Bowl telecast to be remembered _ for a stadium power outage that briefly silenced its game announcers. But the network handled the 35-minute delay competently and then caught a break when the 49ers turned a blowout into a compelling game.
CBS is the only NFL carrier that doesn’t use sideline reporters during the regular season. But Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots, assigned to the role Sunday, did good work updating viewers during the delay.
After the outage disabled the microphones for Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, CBS went to break before Tasker reported what was happening. After another break, CBS’ studio team returned, but without Boomer Esiason, who was working the game on radio.
“Immediately after the power failure, we lost numerous cameras and some audio powered by sources in the Superdome,” CBS said in a statement. “We utilized CBS’ backup power and at no time did we leave the air.”
There were a few unanswered questions, though: 1) Why would no NFL official go on air to explain this mess? 2) Why was Shannon Sharpe confused by the 28-6 score? First he said it was a 21-point margin, then said it was 17. 3) Why did Ravens coach John Harbaugh unleash an expletive-filled tirade at an NFL suit, and why didn’t CBS explain that?
Simms explains the game in simple terms, but this wasn’t one of his best performances. He wasn’t entirely accurate when he said early on that the 49ers “don’t give up big pass plays down the field.” They usually did not in the regular season but permitted three touchdown passes of 20 yards or more in their first two playoff games, and had major issues Sunday.
Notably, Simms did not criticize the 49ers running on two third-and-long situations or the Ravens attempting a fake field goal when up 14-3. But he questioned the 49ers for challenging the spot on a fourth-quarter play, then admitted it was a smart move after the 49ers won the challenge.
And after asserting the referees were correct in not calling defensive holding on the 49ers’ incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal late in the gaming, Simms admitted he was “confused” after watching the replay again.
After Joe Flacco’s first touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, Simms said he heard all week that Baltimore would look for Boldin in that situation. But he should have said it before the play.
CBS picked up audio of Flacco saying “(expletive) awesome” after the game.
Nantz incorrectly said a 49ers fumble was not a fumble but was otherwise very good.
CBS erred by using a noisy outdoor set for the first 2 1/2 hours of its pregame show. The crowd cheering and chanting nearly ruined a serious discussion about concussions.
Credit Sharpe for asking two pointed questions to Ray Lewis about his involvement in the stabbing deaths of two men in 2000. (Murder charges were dropped against Lewis, who accepted a plea deal and admitted at the time to giving misleading statements to police.)
Sharpe asked Lewis what he would tell the families of the two victims, who recently have accused him of knowing more than he has ever shared. His answer would have been unsatisfying to those families. “If you really knew the way God works, he doesn’t use people who commit anything like that,” Lewis said.
That answer also didn’t appease Esiason, who snapped: “He knows what went on there. He doesn’t want to say. He paid off the families.”
CBS said on air that Sharpe didn’t ask Lewis about an allegation that he used deer-antler spray because the interview was conducted before the Sports Illustrated report surfaced.
CBS delivered three exceptional pregame features: on Ravens front-office official and former player O.J. Brigance (who explained that Lou Gehrig’s disease prevents him from speaking and moving but doesn’t diminish his cognitive skills); another on Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia (CBS smartly had one of his daughters, Tori, narrate the segment); and an emotional piece on two Gateway High students _ one who died, one who survived _ the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting last summer.
Scott Pelley’s interview with President Obama was respectful, unlike Fox’s Super Bowl session two years ago, when Bill O’Reilly repeatedly interrupted Obama.
Pelley surprisingly opened with a question Obama was asked by the New Republic a week ago: If you had a son, would you let him play football? “I’d have to think about it,” Obama said, again.
Dan Marino did not seem distracted by Thursday’s revelation that he fathered a child out of wedlock in 2005. As expected, the topic was not broached on the broadcast.
Thankfully, CBS did not subject us to any of those inane red carpet interviews that polluted the Fox and NBC pre games the past two years.
CBS Sports allows sponsors to infiltrate its editorial content more than any other network, and that continued with a cheesy segment (no pun intended) in which Sharpe and Esiason asked fans to shout “hut, hut!” in exchange for food from Pizza Hut.
After James Brown pointed out that none of the 15 coach or general manager openings were filled by minorities, commissioner Roger Goodell said changes would be made to the Rooney Rule. But James should have asked Goodell a follow-up: What changes?
Funniest moment: After Sharpe inadvertently called Greg Gumbel “J.B.,” Gumbel said, “Alright, Sterling,” a reference to Shannon’s brother.