Announcers: B, production: B+
It seemed Jim Nantz was in for a great Super Bowl at the start. With the opening kickoff by Indianapolis in the air, he told CBS' audience that the Colts have had trouble covering kicks all season. And, boom, there went Devin Hester zipping off for a Chicago Bears touchdown.
"That's what happens when you're so worried about Devin Hester you don't react," analyst Phil Simms said.
The pair didn't keep up with the fast start, but turned in a strong effort with a glitch or two.
When Reggie Wayne got wide open for the Colts' first touchdown, it took forever until we got an explanation. Weren't the Bears set up to take away the long ball?
Later, when the Bears didn't have Hester deep to receive a kickoff, Nantz was temporarily confused about Hester's whereabouts. But CBS' cameras had caught Hester in an up position, trying to pick up one of the shorter, line-drive kicks the Colts switched to. With all of those cameras, you'd expect some great pictures, and we got terrific replays - a tight zoom on how Bears quarterback Rex Grossman simply muffed a snap and clear evidence that Indianapolis' Kelvin Hayden hadn't stepped out of bounds after grabbing an interception.
Here's something I can't figure out, though: It was raining, but by 2007, shouldn't a network be able to keep its camera lenses from giving us the kind of view I get through my glasses during a downpour?
Giving them what-fore: Nantz is just as well-known for calling golf tournaments as anything else, and he fit in a couple of golf references. Talking about the Colts' Adam Vinatieri, Nantz described his kicks as having a fade similar to a golf drive. And during the review of the touchdown return by Hayden on his interception, Nantz said officials could check whether Hayden stayed inbounds if they would "go look at the divot" from Hayden's cleats.
How'd they get tickets? Pulling an old Fox trick, CBS showed the three stars of its new sitcom, Rules of Engagement, sitting in the stands. Simms gave the moment a little tweak, though, by saying: "If the show was a hit, they'd be in a suite."
Prince's singing: A; staging: C (for cheesy)
This is what it sounds like when ... the NFL decides. Wouldn't it have been great to hear Prince sing "Little Red Corvette" or "Raspberry Beret"? But that would have been mildly risque, and we can't have that. Instead, he included "Proud Mary" in his medley, as if he were playing a wedding or something. And did we need the boogying marching band? Must have been that somebody was afraid the cheesiness factor was at risk of being too low. Yes, Prince began with "Let's Go Crazy," but his dancing was subdued, though maybe that was a function of the slippery stage. However, he committed no fumbles on any exchange of guitars.
Best unexpected use of a celebrity: Robert Goulet trashing an office for Emerald nuts.
Best expected (because of pre-game publicity) use of a celebrity: Nationwide Insurance's ad with Britney Spears' ex Kevin Federline cooking french fries instead of being a rapper because "life comes at you fast."
Best beer commercial: Beer-loving driver ignoring his girlfriend's reservations to pick up a hitchhiker holding a box of Bud Light and an ax. "It's a bottle opener," the hitcher said.
Most depressing: Robotic arm at a GM plant losing its job and committing robot-cide by jumping off a bridge because it can't cut it on the assembly line. OK, it was just a dream.
Appetite suppressant: Those guys - many with not-ready-for-prime-time bodies - stripping off most of their clothes to wash down a Chevrolet.
Classiest spot: Frito-Lay's recognition of two African-American head coaches in the Super Bowl with black families proudly watching the game.
At this point, Super Bowl pre-game programs have a formula - a little analysis, some heart-tugging features, lots of interviews, raucous fans, pop music. We usually don't really learn anything about the game, but occasionally we'll be entertained. Analyst Boomer Esiason made two big crowd-pleasing moves, one for the fans hanging around the set and another for discerning viewers. For the former, Esiason handed out slices of pizza. For the latter, Esiason forcefully expressed his displeasure that the Bears' Tank Johnson was being allowed to play in the Super Bowl despite his legal problems. "The Chicago Bears missed an opportunity here to send a message," Esiason said, indicating the team should have deactivated him after police found a cache of weapons at Johnson's home.
The best piece of the pre-game was the Katie Couric-narrated segment on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward discovering and connecting with his Korean roots. Sure, it had the cliched swelling music, but the emotion was earned with heartfelt interviews of Ward and his mother and footage from their visit to Korea.
The cutest piece of the pre-game was footage of an eighth-grade Manning in a dance class.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign: If you're going to sponsor part of the pre-game program, I guess you're not going to settle for anything too subtle. The sponsors were splashed on screens below the desk and behind the CBS commentators on the set. The impact of a touching piece on how former Dallas Cowboy Everson Walls is going to help his former teammate, Ron Springs, by donating a kidney was dulled when we returned to the set to see James Brown and Co. discuss the segment while Norbit loomed behind them. (Unexpected Baltimore Connection Dept.: Springs was seen wearing an Orioles cap.)
Stand back, indeed: Here's a question: What was shakier, Stevie Nicks' posture on those stacked-heel boots or her vocals on her 1980s hit "Stand Back"?