Believe it or not, beyond all the bluster about introducing the nonfootball fan to the biggest game of the year, there really is a credible reason for a two-hour Super Bowl pre-game show, and hype master Brent Musburger has it.
"There's an economic component here," said Musburger, who will be host of ABC's shindig from Miami on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m., Channel 2). "There are a lot of advertisers who want to be associated with the Super Bowl, but there just aren't that many availabilities during the game, so we have a longer pre-game show.
"It's the same thing with newspapers. You ask why the Sunday paper is so big. It's because of all the ads," Musburger said.
Alas, there's also an entertainment component involved, because it's apparently not enough just to present the football game.
ABC, invoking the time-tested right of the telecasting network to get the faces of its prime-time stars plastered all over the most-watched show of the year, will present three-minute, game-related vignettes from three of its sitcoms, "Home Improvement," "Coach," and "Me and the Boys," during the pre-game, as well as stories on how the stadium food is prepared and how the cheerleaders get ready to do whatever it is they do.
(Personally, we'd prefer it if ABC would promote the excellent and soon-to-be canceled "My So-Called Life," but what do we know?)
Musburger, who also will be host of the halftime and post-game shows, will anchor the pre-game program from three different spots, but his, thankfully, won't be the only voice you'll hear.
Musburger's college football partner, Dick Vermeil, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese and New York Jets and former Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason will handle analysis, along with Sports Illustrated writer Peter King.
Lynn Swann and Lesley Visser, who will work the sidelines during the game, are slated for pre-game interviews, and "Wide World of Sports" host Julie Moran will chat up celebrities and players from clubs other than San Diego and San Francisco.
By the way, considering what the NFL has planned for intermission, halftime would be a really good time to do some knitting, start on your income taxes or anything, just as long as it doesn't involve actually watching the set.
The NFL has turned over the halftime show to Disney, which, in concert with Frito-Lay, promises a three-act extravaganza with such willing accomplices as singers Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.
The show's theme centers on film character Indiana Jones, who is charged with retrieving the stolen Super Bowl trophy from "temple thugs without looking into the eye of the temple god, Mara," according to a news release.
ZTC * Be afraid. Be very afraid.
By the numbers
Maryland and the NBA were the big winners, while the Big East and the Big Ten (men's division) were the big losers in last weekend's local ratings derby, according to Channel 13's Andre "Dr. Dre" DeVerneil, this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings supplier.
Sunday afternoon's Maryland-North Carolina State game, carried by Channel 54, was the most-watched sports event of the weekend, garnering a 6.8 rating with a 15 share of the audience, just topping the Orlando-Phoenix NBA game on Channel 11, which got a 6.0/12.
On Saturday, the season premiere of "Wide World of Sports," which featured a profile of Orioles owner Peter Angelos and figure skating (so much for the theory that we've seen too much skating), won the day with a 6.4/16 for Channel 2.
The North Carolina-Virginia Tech game on Channel 54 (3.3/8) and the Duke-Florida State contest on Channel 2 (3.3/9) were essentially even, but the Penn State-Purdue women's game on Channel 13 (2.8/8) outpaced the Syracuse-Providence men's clash (1.8/5), also on Channel 13, and was the highest rated of the four CBS games to air in this market over the weekend.