Sights and sounds of the Super Bowl

Behind the scenes, inside the television studios and along the walkways and waterways surrounding Super Bowl XL, one can often find a plethora of football conversation and escapades. In the astronomical world of NFL pregame shows, it's a virtual overdose of chatter, comedy and occasional confusion.

With hype expanding like a weightlifter on steroids heading into Sunday's Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, it's no wonder that broadcast partners ABC and ESPN have planned a hearty buffet of programming.

ESPN will start its pregame show at 11 a.m., and will continue until kickoff at roughly 6:23 p.m. Meanwhile, ABC launches its pregame show at 2:30 p.m.

Is this overkill?

"We don't think it's too much," said ABC executive Norby Williamson during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. "I think there's an insatiable amount of thirst for knowledge and news. It's our goal to offer something for everyone."

It's nearly 10 hours allotted to promote the Super Bowl with the two Walt Disney-owned networks featuring analysts who have won a combined 21 Super Bowl rings.

The networks are planning to do more long-form story-telling and features on ABC along with musical interludes. Not surprisingly, ESPN is focusing on more of a hard-core Xs and O's approach.

"Nobody expects non-stop watching," said Chris Berman, who will anchor ESPN's coverage. "We think people might have to drift in and out. They do have a life. It's there if they're ready to start watching, and we've got something for them."

Added ESPN's Tom Jackson, a former Denver Broncos linebacker: "If I was a fan, I would want to have every piece of knowledge I could have. I would be watching the hard-core end of things."

As Berman conceded, halftime is largely a time to watch the halftime show. Especially with The Rolling Stones headlining the musical acts. However, ESPN will still do a halftime analysis.

If all goes well, then Berman and Jackson won't experience the logistical snafus they went through several years ago when they called their first Super Bowls.

The last time the Super Bowl was in the Detroit region was 1982. There was a severe snowstorm and temperatures were well below freezing.

Berman and Paul Maguire were supposed to catch a rickety helicopter back to the studio for an 11 o'clock broadcast. It was several hours late, though.

"It's 9:30, it's still 20 below and there's no helicopter," Berman recounted. "People are half in the bag. This helicopter pilot finally lands at 10:35 saying, ‘We couldn't find you.' We land in front of the Hyatt at eight minutes of 11. We run on the set.

"It's two minutes of 11. I look at Paul and there's a huge blotch of mustard on his tie and there's a huge blotch of ketchup on my tie. It didn't win an Emmy, but we got it done. It was my first Super Bowl and I hope to never match that story."

Jackson nearly topped Berman's woeful tale one year into retirement.

After watching his Broncos get blown out in Super Bowl XXII in San Diego, Jackson was running late to get to the studio with roughly a quarter-mile to traverse. To get there, he had to get across a creek.

"I thought, ‘It can't be that deep,'" said Jackson, who pulled off his socks and shoes.

Famous last words.

"The last sound you heard was something going down," Jackson said. "I crawled up on the other side soaking wet. I was muddy and bloody.

"I showed up and they stripped me down and put another shirt and tie and jacket on me. I was hot and sweaty and my head wouldn't stop smoking enough to be on the air."

Berman handled the highlights while Jackson cooled down. In the next segment, Berman welcomed in Jackson and quipped, ‘The Broncos have lost their third Super Bowl and they're ready to jump in a lake."

Jackson grinned and grimaced. Unbeknownst to the live audience, he wasn't wearing pants and had only a blanket to keep him warm.

Stories like this one along with rare compliments for image-challenged Detroit dominated the majority of an hour-long conference call. It says a lot about the lack of star power in this game.

Usually stone-faced New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who won three of the last four Super Bowls, will appear on ESPN.

"Bill is a very interesting person," Berman said. "People don't know that. He's not so much here for the sound bites, but he's very intelligent and very interesting. He'll be a pleasant surprise. He's got the football covered."

 

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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