Here we sit, on the cusp of the Super Bowl -- and, as those of you who ever have sat on a cusp know, it's darned uncomfortable.
On Sunday, CBS is making a bold move, increasing the Super Bowl pre-game show by a half-hour, giving us a 2 1/2 -hour lead-in to the Ultimate Game. "The Super Bowl Today" airs at 3:30 p.m. (channels 11, 9), featuring all of your favorite CBS stars -- Greg Gumbel, Terry Bradshaw, Lesley Visser, Pat O'Brien, Dan Fouts, Randy Cross and the announcers for the Game of Games, Pat Summerall and John Madden.
Those who have watched Super Bowl pre-game shows -- my excuse: I get paid to watch them -- know that two hours already was about 1 1/2 hours too long. But CBS surely could use additional Super Bowl-related advertising to sell. Partly because of its $1.1 billion baseball contract, CBS' bottom line is dragging. (Cue Tommy James and the Shondells: "Draggin' the line . . . ")
But the network folk say the pre-game won't be star dreck (to boldly go where every pre-game story has gone before).
"We have three pieces that aren't even in this format," Eric Mann, producer of "The Super Bowl Today," said this week. "There is more than enough material for 2 1/2 hours."
Though CBS isn't trying anything as outlandish as that NFL talent show NBC once had -- unless you count CBS' opening, a music video from Minneapolis native Prince -- this year's pre-game should offer a few promising twists. Best among them could be "My First Experience with Football," short segments of remembrances from the Redskins and Bills. Other things to look for are the NFL Films season recap and a piece on Carlton Bailey, the Bills linebacker from Woodlawn.
Early line on the best segment to skip: Redskins defensive tackle Eric Williams' video-recorded view of the week leading up to the Titanic Tilt.
But CBS might have something about 2 1/2 hours not being enough. Here are just a few segments that apparently didn't make the cut:
* The making of Joe Gibbs' car battery commercial.
* Marv Levy and Ted Marchibroda visit historic Bob Dylan sites in Hibbing, Minn.
* Joe Jacoby's diet workshop.
* Lonnie Smith, still trying to score from second.
* Darrell Green vs. John Madden match race.
* Timmy "I did, too, play in the Super Bowl" Smith attempts to get a sideline pass.
* A special edition of "Studs" with Jack Kent Cooke.
Scraping the bowl I: TNT carries "Super Bowl Saturday Night" tomorrow at 8. The program will feature the live presentation of awards for NFL Man of the Year, Players of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Arnold Schwarzenegger also will be on the show, possibly previewing another Ah-nult appearance during CBS' pre-game show Sunday. . . . The Fox network has scheduled an episode of its comedy series "In Living Color" to run simultaneously with halftime of the Battle for Gridiron Supremacy.
Scraping the bowl II: ESPN takes viewers nearly up to kickoff with football programming, featuring a 1 1/2 -hour "NFL GameDay" at noon Sunday, followed by the "Edge NFL Super Bowl XXVI Match-Up" show(first broadcast tomorrow at 8 p.m.) and four hours of Super Bowl highlights. . . . Have you heard the Redskins reggae song on the radio? "Hail to the Redskins, they got the right stuff to win. Hail to the Dreadskins, they'll bring the title home again." Lively up yourself, Joe Gibbs.
Invasion of the Sports Snatchers: WBAL (1090 AM) turns the station over to sports tomorrow. "Sportsline" will air from 6 a.m. to noon, the first four hours with Ron Smith and Jim West and the next two with Jeff Rimer. At noon, it's Maryland-Clemson basketball, followed by "Sportsline" with Rex Barney until 6 p.m. Then "Instant Replay with Pat Summerall" takes over for an hour, and, after a 15-minute news break, the Washington Bullets-Phoenix Suns game will air at 7:15 p.m. After the Bullets, Dan Rodricks' "The Greatest Game Never Played," a rebroadcast of a dream game between all-time Orioles and all-time Yankees teams, completes the day. WBAL also will cover the NFL exhibition game ticket sales at Memorial Stadium and the Orioles Winter Carnival at Martin's West. Approximately nine hours of sports talk are scheduled. So, how many different ways can you say that the Orioles need better pitching?
Constructive criticism: "Why can't you just call the game the Super Bowl, like everybody else?" the boss asked. "What's with all this Ultimate Game, Titanic Tilt junk?"
Well, boss, I said, I just was trying to lighten things up. You know, offer mocking tribute to an event that has grown beyond its importance, possibly doing my little bit to deflate the overblown aura of the game.
"Deflate an overblown aura?" he replied. "How dare you mix a metaphor in my office? And why do you have me speaking only in sentences that end in question marks?"
I thought it was kind of in keeping with the spirit of this part of the column, I told him, where you give me three things you want to know.
"The spirit? You think this thing has a spirit?" the boss thundered, not noticing he still was being quoted in interrogatives. "The only thing that saves this column," he said, flipping a switch on the wall that put him in a declarative sentence, "is my contribution."
Things My Boss Wants to Know: Is it true that ESPN's Tom Jackson raided Prince's closet for an outfit to wear Sunday? . . . Who will CNN's Buddy Ryan pick to win Sunday? (Ryan, who's not at all bitter about being fired by the Eagles, will predict that Philadelphia won't win.) . . . What was the big scoop ESPN's Fred Edelstein had from the Super Bowl? (He said that the Lombardi trophy ice sculpture outside the Metrodome would start melting if the temperature rose much above freezing.)