CBS Underwhelms in Super Bowl Telecast

CBS Sports spent months, perhaps even up to two years, preparing a strategy to cover Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.  The teams were unknown until two weeks ago, but the behind-the-scenes preparation and personnel have been in place for some time.  With all that said the normally-solid CBS had its share of hiccups in presenting last night’s game.

Despite what turned out to be an entertaining 34-31 Baltimore Ravens victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the story of the game was the 34-minute delay early in the third quarter after power was lost to a portion of the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

No network can anticipate that such an event will play out on sports’ largest stage.  When the outage knocked out audio from the broadcast booth where Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were calling the game, CBS did its best to handle the situation by first going to a commercial break.

Once back from the break, only sideline reporter Steve Tasker had communication with the CBS production truck and was pressed into duty in providing an update for viewers.  Tasker did a credible job in describing what was happening in the building, but was clearly out of his element in handling a breaking news story.

When James Brown and the Super Bowl Today crew did take control of the air, they focused primarily on the impact the outage would have on the game. The producers of the telecast failed, at least at the time, to get their hands around the news story that was developing.  CBS was unable to get an on-camera interview with an NFL official about the cause of the delay.  Tracey Wolfson, who was not scheduled to be part of the game telecast, did provide information on the outage, but only after a good amount of time had passed.

The game telecast itself was not spectacular.  The 62 cameras employed by CBS did not miss any important play.  But that is expected.  I liked that CBS kept the focus of the game on the field, and not on cutaways of the Harbaugh parents or any other celebrity.

The producers also missed opportunities to delve into why certain plays did not work.  Instead of focusing on a missed holding call on the 49ers’ fourth down play in its last drive, more time should have been spent analyzing San Francisco’s play calling down the stretch.

Simms did not have his best day on the air.  He seemed confused at times about what was happening on the field and was not critical enough of either team.  This was evident when he said he would not “second guess” the Ravens’ fake field goal attempt in the first half.  He also seemed confused about how advantageous a safety would be at the end of the game when Baltimore was forced to punt from its own end zone with :12 left.  I felt Simms had slipped in the quality of his analysis all year.  Yesterday’s performance bore that out.

Overall I would give CBS a B- or its performance.

Best ad for me this Super Bowl was the Dodge Ram ad featuring Paul Harvey and farmers.  I could not pick out a worst ad because there were so many.  The creepiest ad, by far, was the Go Daddy ad featuring super model Bar Rafaeli making out with the computer geek.