Fox will stick to game plan that got network to Super Bowl


If the folks who are behind Fox's coverage of Sunday's Super Bowl are to be believed, it's not a coincidence that the rock group Kiss will perform just before the game.

The acronym "keep it simple, stupid," kiss, in other words, will be the guiding philosophy behind their telecast of the 33rd annual extravaganza.

"We have to do what we do throughout the season," said game producer Robert Stenner. "The two teams who get here aren't going to look different than they have and neither will we."

Of course, we all have different opinions on what simplicity means. For you, it might mean watching the game with a couple of buds (even Stinky from down the street), a few brews and a couple bags of chips.

For Fox, however, simplicity is something different. Stenner and director Sandy Grossman will have at their disposal a Super Bowl record 31 cameras, 19 more than they would for a regular-season game, 25 tape machines -- up from eight in the regular season -- 300 staffers and 15 miles of cable.

Ah, but while the technology is complex (not to mention immense), the guiding philosophy is simple: Stick to the game and the story lines that flow from it.

"If you're sitting at home and saying, 'They've got a lot of cameras,' then we've failed," said Grossman, an eight-time Emmy Award winner. "You shouldn't notice that stuff, only the stories."

"You make a big mistake if you try to put yourself in front of it," said Stenner, himself a multiple Emmy winner. "For Sandy and I, it's all there. What we need to do is let the game happen. The game is there. We just don't need to mess it up."

One change you're likely to see Sunday, particularly if the game comes down to a last-second field-goal attempt, as the NFC championship did, is one where the reactions of the coaches, Atlanta's Dan Reeves and Denver's Mike Shanahan, are superimposed onto the screen along with the kick.

On the theory that replays are for what's not shown live, Grossman trotted the double reaction shot out earlier in the playoffs, and plans to use it if the game comes down to a kick, but not on a Hail Mary play.

What you won't see Sunday is the electronic first-down marker that ESPN and CBS have used this season. Fox executive producer Ed Goren said contractual difficulties kept the network from using the best technological advance since it created the constant score and clock box in 1994.

As for the game, analyst John Madden says that while the Falcons and Broncos have solid defenses, neither is so impregnable as to be able to stop the opposing offense for the entire day.

"There's not a dominant defense here. There's no way that if you get behind that you can't make it up," said Madden. "As good as these teams are, both of their defenses are vulnerable."

For the Denver defense, Madden figures the challenge comes down to a choice between stopping Atlanta runner Jamal Anderson or halting quarterback Chris Chandler from throwing to receivers Terance Mathis and Tony Martin.

Atlanta's defense, meanwhile, will have to cope with keeping Denver's Terrell Davis, the league's leading rusher, in relative check, while keeping a handle on quarterback John Elway and his ability to run and pass.

"The one thing about the Atlanta defense is they're very aggressive. They're good at stripping the ball. When you have the ball, they go after it," said Madden.

Kickoff is scheduled for around 6: 20 p.m. (Channel 45), but Madden and Pat Summerall come on the air around 6 p.m. With experienced reporters like Suzy Kolber and Pam Oliver on hand, Fox will inexplicably use game analysts Bill Maas and Ron Pitts as game reporters. Here's hoping some of the news value doesn't happen down on the field during the game, because Maas and Pitts will hardly be equipped to cover it.

The Super siphon

Like some giant supernova that expands and expands, engulfing all that surrounds it, the Super Bowl has become so immense that even some of the outlets that don't have the game attempt to leech off it.

Most of them are ridiculous, from special halftime wrestling and music shows to "special" football-related programming on shopping and cartoon channels. In the most extreme example of attempting to glom off the game, a porn star has announced in a breathless press release that she'll be staging a halftime "Super Bowl of breasts." Yikes.

Someday, hopefully soon, this supernova will explode, and the resulting black hole will suck all this garbage and the hype surrounding the game back to some manageable level. No one is holding his breath waiting for it, though.

At any rate, while all the cable sports outlets will have blanket post-game coverage, based on past experience, CNN's "Sports Tonight" (11 p.m. Sunday) will likely be the best at placing the game in perspective because it airs on an all-news network.

It is, after all, just a game, right?

Around the dial

Fox launches a new horse racing series tomorrow with the running of the Donn Handicap (Channel 45, 4 p.m.), from Gulfstream Park, near Miami, the Super Bowl site. Joe Buck will be the host.

On the men's college hoops front, the schedule makers didn't do top-ranked Connecticut any favors. The Huskies draw first St. John's on the road tomorrow (Channel 13, 1 p.m.) and Syracuse at home Monday (ESPN, 7: 30 p.m.).

And, finally, if you had your heart set on watching middleweight Aaron Davis whup up on Dana Rosenblatt tonight on ESPN2 (9 p.m.) or vice versa, there's bad news, for Davis pulled out yesterday. But fear not, for the ever-ready Sam Calderon has agreed to step in. You may all rest easy now.

Pub Date: 1/29/99

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