Wall-To-Wall Super Bowl Overkill Started A Long Time Ago
By Steven King
It will depend on their tolerance level, but by sometime this week, fans will be all Super-Bowl-coveraged-out, if there is such a term.
Even the diehards – the people who seemingly can’t get enough of the NFL – will have gotten enough.
Maybe it will come when they start reading about the hobbies of the Seattle Seahawks’ third-string long snapper.
Maybe it will come when they read a Q and A with a Denver Broncos quality control coach in which he explains that his mom makes the best green bean casserole in four counties back home.
Maybe it will come when FOX, for about the 4,732nd time, tells its viewers that it’s the TV home of this year’s Super Bowl.
Or maybe it will be a combination of all three of these things.
But whatever the reason for it, rest assured that the point of information overload – when the simple mention of the word “football” causes fans to have a panic attack, break out in hives or develop a sudden craving to watch archived episodes of The View – will definitely come. And when it does, it’s time to go out and take a walk – maybe re-introduce yourself to your family members after the long NFL season – and not have anything more to do with football until just after 6 p.m. Sunday.
All the the traditionalists – the old-timers -- will claim that this is yet another example of how the Super Bowl has become too big, too hyped, too commercialized, too much a part of the fabric of this country when there are so many more important things that should be drawing people’s attention.
Maybe they’re right, but if they are, then they have only themselves to blame. After all, the old-timers’ guys – the ones back in the day – started it.
Indeed, if you think there is too much Super Bowl coverage now, especially by the network televising the game, you should have been around 47 years ago.
When Super Bowl I – then simply referred to as the NFL-AFL World Championship Game, with the Super Bowl moniker not coming for a couple years – was played between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 15, 1967 in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, there were not one, but two, networks televising the game.
There was CBS, which owned the rights to NFL telecasts, and NBC, which had telecast rights for AFL games. Not to slight anyone in that inaugural year, it was agreed that both networks should do the game. There was CBS with play-by-play announcers Ray Scott (first half) and Jack Whitaker (second half), color analyst Frank Gifford and sideline reporter Pat Summerall. NBC countered with play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy, color analyst Paul Christman and sideline reporter Charlie Jones. Following the game, Summerall handled the trophy presentation to the winning team (the Packers triumphed 35-10 with a big second half), while George Ratterman did the same for NBC.
Both networks used the same cameras at the same time, so if you switched back and forth between the networks, you saw the same shots. The only thing that was different was the announcing crews.
But it didn’t matter. Viewers in cities with teams in the established NFL, watched CBS. And in cities of the upstart AFL, NBC was the choice.
Would you have expected anything less? Indeed, this was like pro football’s version of the Civil War. There were loyalties to be maintained.
Leading up to the game, though, is when the onslaught of Super Bowl pre-game coverage that we enjoy today – at least for most of the week anyway – has its roots. There were hours of coverage on gameday by both networks featuring panel discussions of what it would be like for the NFL champion Packers to clash with the AFL titlist Chiefs, what the keys to the game would be and what victory or defeat would mean for both leagues.
This was a time before networks really understood how to do pre-game shows by utilizing video, on-site correspondents and various features to mix things up a little.
As such, these pre-game shows consisted almost exclusively of a bunch of men sitting around in a semi-circle and talking.
And talking some more.
After about three hiours, the big-console Zenith was about ready to blow a picture tube.
What a difference it would have made for the mostly male audience for a pretty face like Erin Andrews to enter the picture both literally and figuratively and talk about anything – even the hobbies of the third-string long snapper or the green bean casserole recipe from the quality control coach’s mom.
But not a rant like the one Andrews had with Richard Sherman.
Like Marty McFly’s rendition of Johnny Be Good at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in 1955 during the movie Back to the Future, it would not have been appreciated. It would not have gone over well. It would have been too far ahead of its time.
The following season, sanity prevailed and the two networks began alternating telecasts of the game. CBS did Super Bowl II in which the Packers made it two in a row for the NFL with a 33-14 walloping of the Oakland Raiders, making people start wondering if this World Championship Game thing was such a good idea afterall. NBC did Super Bowl III. The New York Jets’ stunning 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts in that game not only was a history-altering moment for the AFL and pro football in general, but also for NBC as the network got to showcase the league’s proudest moment and its coverage of how it all happened.
And with each year, the game – and the amount of coverage it receives -- has gotten increasingly bigger.
After all, that first Super Bowl had set such a precedent with the attention the networks gave it, that anything less would have been looked upon as being a step backward.
So, when fans decide they’ve had it up to here with Super Bowl coverage this week, they shouldn’t blame FOX. Rather, they should point the finger at CBS and NBC for what they did nearly a half-century ago.