Sunday's Super Bowl pre-game show commences at 3:30 p.m. That's a full two hours and 48 minutes before the opening kickoff, roughly the equivalent of how long the ground war lasted in the Persian Gulf a year ago.
"We've got more than enough to fill," says the show's producer Eric Mann. "Why, we've got three features that aren't even in the format." One's about the time Marv Levy took the trash out and locked himself out of the house. The Buffalo coach froze to death. For confirmation, check him out when CBS cameras scan the bench area of the Bills.
Mann started divulging his goodies: A Prince music video opens it up. Terry Bradshaw wanders the gridiron, reflecting on his experiences in four Supes. The teams arrive at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Pat O'Brien checks out a tailgate party (?) at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Lesley Visser visits with Doug Williams in Louisiana. Get the idea?
Wait, it gets better. Bradshaw interviews the quarterbacks. Randy Cross talks to a couple of linemen. Curry Kirkpatrick cruises the downtown area. Bradshaw, John Madden and Pat Summerall discuss what transpires on the field during the pre-game warmup, if anything. Madden says he always checks to see if anyone's limping. Must be the coach in him.
Just under two hours until game time, gang, which brings up a thought: After decades of watching, I've noticed people, particularly women, have trouble maintaining interest and/or consciousness during this telethon. A few suggestions.
When the Bradshaw good-old-boy twang commences, pay attention. Terry's apt to say anything. Host Greg Gumbel's voice has a relaxing effect, so switch from a soft chair to a hard chair. When Visser moves in for a feature or an update from an empty tunnel outside the Redskins' locker room, get up and look out a window. First, north, then south. Don't dare miss the piece on O'Brien going ice-fishing, which should be a gas.
* Now that Bill Walsh is back coaching the college boys (Stanford) and NBC figures to be looking for a lead analyst for pro football and a guy to comment on Notre Dame home games, would Bradshaw be interested?
"While I'd like to get out of the studio and back to doing games in the booth," Bradshaw said. "I know what's being hinted at here and I'm not going to touch that sucker." Wouldn't NBC turn double back flips to coax Bradshaw away from "The NFL Today?"
* One of the annual features of Super Bowl Weekend, "Road to the Super Bowl," goes tonight at 8 on Channel 11, with Vince Bagli hosting. Producer-director Steve Sabol says, "I've always approached this film like the opera: Our audience knows the plot; the point is, we have to sing it well."
So chalk up another Emmy for "Road," because NFL Films has laid a Enrico Caruso number on the 1991 campaign. One of the highlights of the show is the millionth example of what NFL Films does best, audio: Cincinnati quarterback Boomer Esiason, obviously under stress, turns to his linemen in the huddle and says, "Let me tell you something. This isn't Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus and Deacon Jones over there [on defense], so let's start kicking some ass."
* Just so you don't forget which net has the Winter Games Feb. 8-23, the Olympic Winterfest show will precede the Super Bowl pre-game show on CBS Sunday at 2 p.m. Reports from the mountains of eastern France by co-hosts Paula Zahn and Tim McCarver will be littered throughout football coverage until it subsides about 10 p.m.
Tim, baby, try to get a little more excitement, more passion, into the voice. This isn't just another one of those dull losses by the Mets in August.
* Also on Sunday, NBC checks in with an Celtics-Pistons NBA game at noon, followed by a half-hour look at "The Magic and Bird Era" at 3 p.m. If the names Magic and Bird don't ring a bell, head for ABC, which has the final nine holes of the Senior Skins Game at 1:30 p.m. Golden oldies Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez play the front side Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Bodies don't spring back very rapidly after age 50, obviously.
* Jim Palmer is just about out of the Orioles booth as Channel 2 attempts to recoup some of its huge losses as the O's flagship station. Jon Miller, Palmer and Brooks Robinson all carry excessive salaries for local TV. Jimbo had futile talks with the Atlanta Braves super-station and the Red Sox, and is now hitting up Home Team Sports in an attempt to keep his name and visage before the public.
Still no word on Palmer's syndicated talk show venture, which has had problems getting much beyond the audition-tape stage due to the depressed market.
* With network (CBS), cable (TNT), radio (CBS) and computers (Prodigy) covering the Winter Olympics beginning Feb. 8, the only thing left appears to be intravenous injection.
* Maybe Buddy Ryan, analyst on CNN's "NFL Preview," should zip when talk gets around to the team he coached in Philly. His claim that "Decision-makers in the Eagles organization have screwed up 15 times since I left there," rings a tad hollow when you consider the team went 10-6 despite losing star quarterback Randall Cunningham for the entire season.
* "Is it too much to expect the sports to be presented in a mature, professional fashion?" the letter-writer wanted to know, so instantly you know it was a copy of a letter forwarded to Channel 13. Among other things, the author, Wilma Webber, took issue with John Buren's Elvis shrine, "The Johnettes" cheerleaders in evidence every so often and the content usually found in his nightly sportscast. You, the viewer/listener, what do you think? Let us know.
* One of the big advertisers on the Super Bowl telecast at $1.6 million per minute of air time is McDonald's. Explains a Big Mac spokesman, "The Super Bowl is part of Americana, and participating is one of the ways we reaffirm our relationship with American families." Sorta brings a tear to your eye, don't it?
* The TVKO (pay-per-view) fight for February is Ray Mercer (18-0) vs. Larry Holmes (53-3) on the 7th . . . ESPN is assigning two people, sportscaster Charley Steiner and attorney Jim Drucker, to provide daily reports on the Mike Tyson rape trial in Indianapolis beginning Monday. The cable's running an interview with Tyson -- taped before Christmas -- on Sunday at 11 p.m., in case you want to miss it.