Media Blitz: Super Bowl bonanza

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 10, 2006



By Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor John Molori
 
THIS WEEK:
- Super Bowl scores with viewers
- Pregame patter
-
 Game misconducts
- Ads that subtract

The viewers
Super Bowl XL, a 21-10 win for Pittsburgh over Seattle, scored a 41.6 rating, according to ABC and ESPN public relations. Nielsen Media Research reports that the game was viewed by 141.4 million people in the United States, making it the second most-watched television program in American history. Super Bowl XXXVIII, a thrilling, last-second 32-29 victory by New England over Carolina, remains No. 1 with 144.4 million viewers.
 
The pregame
As is often the norm with Super Bowls, the pregame was as interesting as the game. NFL Network featured a terrific segment with Bill Cowher and his family showing that the Steelers coach is as dedicated to home as he is to the game.

As for analysts, Ray Lewis and Steve Mariucci were solid for the NFL Network, while Rod Woodson's sycophantic Steelers rooting was pretty lame.
 
Mike Ditka of ESPN won the pregame "Mr. Obvious Award" when he said "you can't do anything until the game starts." Wow, thanks for the insight, Mike. 

ABC had New England coach Bill Belichick sitting alongside Mike Tirico at field level. Belichick look relaxed as he discussed proper pregame team pacing. "You don't want to burn it up in pregame warm-ups," said Belichick. He said that a team should be peaking when the captains take the coin toss.
 
Belichick (left) did an expert job dissecting Ben Roethlisberger's strengths. He also called the 1985 Bears defense "as good as anybody" and said that his goal in Super Bowl XXV, when he was the defensive coordinator of the Giants, was to neutralize Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas. 

As for his 2001 Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI versus the Rams, Belichick said, "Our game plan was decided by two words: Marshall Faulk." 
 
Belichick proved prophetic when he said that Seattle would have to throw the ball to win. He was also right saying that Pittsburgh's spread offense is a key and that the Steelers have more playmakers on defense. When Tirico said that Belichick should become a TV analyst, Belichick joked, "I don't think I could come over to the dark side."
 
Fans in New England, who have watched Belichick anger the local media with his stoicism and silence, were certainly not surprised to hear his description of the Fourth Estate.
 
ABC's talent discussed Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter's pre-Super Bowl trash-talking. ABC should have tapped into Belichick's expertise in this discussion. In last year's Super Bowl, Belichick told his teammates to stop jawing with the Eagles and focus on doing their jobs. The scolding was captured by NFL Films and appears in many Super Bowl XXXIX wrap-ups.
 
ABC also featured an excellent look back at Joe Namath and Super Bowl III, reinforcing the belief that Namath is the coolest man in NFL history. ABC/ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber should have been honored by Namath's infamous "I want to kiss you" request. 

By the way, in discussing an injured Seattle player during the game, Kolber said that they "pulled his pants down and taped up his groin." Ouch, kind of makes "I want to kiss you" seem tame!
 
The pregame also showcased a great segment on the Hasselbeck family: dad Don, who won Super Bowl XVIII with the L.A. Raiders, and current NFL quarterbacks Tim and Matt. Incidentally, Matt Hasselbeck's open embrace of his baldness made this follically challenged reporter quite proud. He is the Doug Williams of bald quarterbacks, and don't give me that Terry Bradshaw stuff. The ex-Pittsburgh QB wore a horrid rug for much of his 1970s Super Bowl heyday. (That's Hasselbeck stroking Bradshaw's baldness here.)
ESPN/ABC's Andrea Kremer again starred with a feature on former Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. The piece was dark and somewhat disturbing, just like Tatum. It was clear that Tatum still has few regrets about paralyzing New England receiver Daryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game. Kremer also spoke to Stingley regarding the incident and relayed his thoughts.

ESPN's Mike Ditka and George Wendt starred in a "Da Bears" feature based on the old "Saturday Night Live" skit. Bears fan Wendt told the former Chicago tight end and coach that he bought one of Ditka's hips on the Internet. He also thanked Ditka for "stinking out the joint" as coach in New Orleans, considering it a sign of respect to the Bears. 
 
ABC's Jimmy Kimmel also tickled funny bones in a piece where he used the key to the city of Detroit to spy on a swimsuit model, drive the Red Wings' Zamboni and get shot with a spear gun by Ted Nugent.
 
"I'm the Motor City Madman," said Nugent. "I ain't got the key to Jack Diddly." Easily, the quote of the day.
 
ABC's Jim McKay provided a typically thoughtful piece on a former Iranian hostage who was uplifted by watching Super Bowl XV upon his freedom from capture in 1981. But the most heart-warming segment of the day was a Chris Connelly ABC feature on a Pop Warner football league for physically challenged kids in upstate New York. If you didn't cry, check your pulse. 
 
Chris Berman had a fit of Bill Cowher hyperbole when he said in ABC's pregame show that "no one replaces Chuck Noll and has this kind of success." What success? Before Super Bowl XL, Cowher had appeared in just one Super Bowl in 13 seasons and lost that game.
 
Robin Roberts' interview with Mick Jagger and the game's open featuring Harrison Ford in a Dr. Seuss theme can both be best described as weak.

Game time
John Madden and Al Michaels, who will reunite on NBC's Sunday night NFL telecasts this fall, did a decent job of calling Super Bowl XL. Michaels was his usual self, on top of every call with the right mix of drama and understatement. Madden, all too often, stated the obvious. In the second quarter, he said "Ben Roethlisberger has to throw more on first down and complete them." 
 
Speaking of Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's quarterback wore a glove on his passing hand. Before the game, Troy Aikman said that Roethlisberger might do just that because of the residue on new footballs. 
 
ABC's statistical graphics were terrific. When Roethlisberger's second quarter dive was called a touchdown and challenged, an ABC graphic showed that referee Bill Leavy overturns only 23 percent of challenged calls, the lowest rate in the NFL. Sure enough, Leavy upheld the horrible touchdown call.
 
This was, undoubtedly, the worst officiated game in Super Bowl history. It was Leavy's first Super Bowl as referee and it showed. Seattle's Darrell Jackson had a touchdown reception called back on a bogus pushing off call. It seemed that every time Seattle executed a big play, the referees tossed a flag and nullified the gain. 
 
In short, Leavy (left) and his crew negatively affected the outcome of the game in embarrassing fashion. Madden alluded to the bad calls, but he is an NFL company man and was not nearly critical enough of the officials.
 
Leavy's losers hit a new low for their profession in the fourth quarter. They missed several offside calls against Pittsburgh, called a phantom hold on Seattle's Sean Locklear that negated a big reception by Jerramy Stevens and called a bogus block below the waist on Matt Hasselback who was not blocking, but tackling. 
 
A called fumble by Hasselbeck was thankfully overturned by replay, but a clear helmet-first hit by Deshea Townsend on Hasselbeck with 6:20 left in the game went ignored. 
 
ABC's replays clearly showed that Leavy and crew poorly spotted a would-be first down run by Seattle's Mack Strong and incorrectly gave a first down to Roethlisberger on a run with 3:41 remaining. 
 
In short, Leavy and company's stripes should have been black and gold, not black and white. They officiated like the Rolling Stones sang: sad, tired and nearly incomprehensible.

Commercial success?
Like the officiating crew, the crop of Super Bowl ads were probably the worst ever. ABC's show promos were better than the paid commercials at more than $2 million a pop. Here is a rundown of a few bests and many worsts.

Pizza Hut: Jessica Simpson can feed me anything, anywhere and anytime.

"Desperate Housewives" promo: It's nice to know that as a fan of the show, I run with Hugh Hefner, Sugar Ray Leonard, Matt Leinart, Shaquille O'Neal and Tony Hawk. Party at Hef's place!

"Dancing with the Stars" promo: God's greatest creations: 3, Light; 2, Water; 1, Stacy Keibler's legs (right).

Bud Light: Drunk people trashing an office. Not funny

Burger King: If I want to watch bad plots and women jumping on each other, I'll check out Cinemax's "Friday After Dark."

FedEx: Cavemen sending packages. Not funny.

Diet Pepsi: Jay Mohr was mildly amusing reprising his sports agent role from "Jerry Maguire," but last year, Pepsi featured Eva Longoria. Anything else is a disappointment.

Aleve: Leonard Nimoy goes "In Search of...Pain Relief." Love it.

Budweiser: Streaking sheep. Not funny.

Michelob: Girl tackles boy. Boy tackles girl. Only in commercials would such a dweeb have such contact with such a hottie.

Gillette: FIVE BLADES? What's next, sticking my freaking face under a lawn mower?

Sprint: Guy whips his cell phone at a friend's head, twice. Now that's funny!

John Molori's columns are published at ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Patriots Football Weekly, The Boston Metro, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, New England Ringside Magazine, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.

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