In case you haven’t heard, there’s a big football game down in New Orleans on Sunday.
That’s highly unlikely, especially if you’re a viewer of CBS, which for the past week has put on an all-out blitz of programming related to Super Bowl XLVII from the Big Easy. The eye network has deployed its news, sports and entertainment divisions at what it’s dubbed CBS Super Bowl Park at Jackson Square in the French Quarter, offering reports on what’s been happening there the past week, ranging from night life and celebrities in New Orleans to the recovery from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and, of course, what the teams involved have been up to.
So by now, you should be up to speed on all things New Orleans.
As for the game itself, the clash between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers airs the evening of Sunday, Feb. 3, from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call for CBS.
The broadcast day from New Orleans begins with “Face the Nation,” followed by three specials, “Road to the Super Bowl,” an NFL?Films montage of the sights and sounds of the 2012 season; “New Orleans: Let the Good Times Roll,” in which host Wynton Marsalis takes a musical tour of the city; and “Phil Simms All-Iron Team: Super Bowl Edition,” in which Simms and Nantz highlight some of the greatest moments in Super Bowl history.
Then in midafternoon, the game is the thing with the pregame show “The Super Bowl Today,” in which host Greg Gumbel and analysts James Brown, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher give their takes on what to expect. That takes viewers up to kickoff.
Add in such technological advances as super-high-speed cameras and split-screen mosaics that can offer up to six different camera angles on a single screen, and it’s clear CBS is going all out for the occasion.
“It is a special event. We know that,” says Simms at a recent event for media at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
Simms, who will be doing his seventh Super Bowl call Sunday, won two Super Bowls as the quarterback of the New York Giants. He recalls his first title game as a player, against the Denver Broncos in 1987.
“It’s a great moment. It’s the greatest thing you can do as an athlete, I think,” he says. “You stand there [in the tunnel during introductions], and you wait, and you go, ‘Wow, this is everything I thought it was going to be.’
“And I was really loving that moment,” he says. “And I’m standing there saying, ‘Boy, this is great, this is great,’ and then next to me one of my starting offensive linemen was crying. I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a little extreme.’ And I look around and another offensive lineman was behind me throwing up. And I thought, ‘My God. Here’s the biggest moment of my life, and we’re choking to death.’ “
Simms, however, was determined not to let nerves get the better of him.
“I knew all the things that everybody has always said about the Super Bowl, quarterbacks who said, ‘Oh, I couldn’t settle down until the second quarter,’ ” he says. “And I just remember always thinking, ‘If I play in the Super Bowl, I am not going to be nervous because I’m not going to waste that time.’ And I remember getting in the huddle, running the play.
“About the third play, I’m in the huddle, and I’m getting ready to call the play, and I’m looking and everybody was heaving, like hyperventilating. And I went, ‘Oh, my gosh, you guys! I can’t believe this.’ And I remember walking to the line of scrimmage getting ready to go underneath the center and seeing the Denver Broncos defense and every one of them was hyperventilating. So I said, ‘OK, good, everybody’s choking. We’ll be OK.’ “
And they were. After falling behind in the first half, the Giants dominated the game’s final 30 minutes to win, 39-20. Simms took game MVP honors.
A key to any game call is the broadcast partners’ chemistry. Anyone who has ever watched a CBS game knows Nantz and Simms have it in spades. Nantz, who will be calling his fifth Super Bowl Sunday, recalls when he realized his partnership with Simms would work.
It was a San Francisco 49ers-Philadelphia Eagles preseason game in 2004, and Nantz says, “CBS kind of looked at it as a practice game. And the network, [CBS Sports Chairman] Sean McManus specifically, was really excited about the pairing. … We walked out of the booth that day, and I thought, ‘Man, this was so easy.’ The rapport was just natural, and everybody was just ecstatic. When they got the feedback, I could tell Sean was really pleased with what he had constructed.
“And that first season felt so smooth, and the second season felt even better and easier. And the next year felt better and easier. I can really honestly say I feel that. I don’t know if the viewer … at home can tell the difference, but I feel it.
“The short of it is we just enjoy each other’s company. We have a lot of fun. We’re playful with each other. We’re not afraid to (kid each other). It’s not vicious; it’s not mean-spirited. It’s playful. And it’s two buddies watching a football game, and that’s a good feeling.”
One of the things no one wants on Sunday is a blowout, which has happened more than a few times over 46 years. Fans get bored and tune out, ratings fall off, and sponsors fret about not getting their advertising dollars’ worth. But Simms sees it another way.
“I find those exciting, too,” he says, “because I get to say things that I can never say. You know, I’ve got time, and I can make a thought about whatever. I do like that. I just don’t want to do that during a Super Bowl.”