There's an expression about a silk purse and a sow's (or a hog's) ear that pretty well covers the Super Bowl as seen on CBS yesterday.
On the first play from scrimmage, Mark Rypien got decked as he attempted to pass and the Redskins ran two more plays and punted. Hey, we may have a ballgame here, the masses huddled in front of TV sets thought.
Buffalo ran a dive designed to pick up 2 yards, followed by a broken play and a sack. Some high-powered offense.
It was a game for a quarter, mainly because the Redskins kept shooting themselves in the foot, but you could tell. The dip was going too fast. Folks seemed to want commercial breaks so they could get up and move around, talk.
CBS, after a torturous pre-game show (what other kind is there?), was doing its usual solid job of covering the action. A Pepsi commercial, a Nicoderm spot and the Skins were up, 17-0. It was time to unfasten the seatbelt.
The guys in the booth, Pat Summerall and John Madden, had been kidding us along, sort of fostering the perception that this was some sort of dream matchup.
It was left for Terry Bradshaw to set 100 million viewers straight at halftime. "Buffalo has no running game and a bad game plan," he said. OK, Indianapolis Colts, take Bills offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda away.
"The Bills are too tight. Jim Kelly's forcing the ball and doing all the [bad] things he hasn't done all season," said Bradshaw. "The no-huddle was great the first 12 weeks of the season. The last six. . . [and he turned two thumbs down]."
They decided to play the second half anyway, because commercial time had already been paid for, so CBS eased into its alternate plan of coverage.
"First, we tell the story of the game," said Sandy Grossman. And when that's gone?
"Then we add a little glitz, a little fun, a little humor," he answered.
Much of this depends on Madden's having a good day and, sometimes during the long season, John's eye isn't catching the offbeat, the wry, the ridiculous.
The game lumbered along. A touchdown here, one there, TV cameras being poked everywhere in hopes of killing some time. Nothing helped. There was a closeup of every player, every coach and every fan in the first five rows of the Metrodome.
"I can't wait to see downhill skiing and those guys go off the ski-jump. They're just like the guys on special teams," Madden screamed, none too subtly. See, CBS is doing the Winter Olympics beginning Feb. 8.
Oh, but I guess you knew that, what with all those little cut-ins from Albertville, France, all afternoon.
Madden wondered with all the stuff hanging off Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon's belt, what was keeping his pants up? It was as good a question as when coach Joe Gibbs would receive the ceremonial container of Gatorade dumped over him.
CBS could have saved time and had the trophy presentation during the fourth quarter so it could get to the Gov. Bill Clinton interview on "60 Minutes" earlier, giving schoolkids a chance to see our election year democratic process in action firsthand.
The romp cut down on the number of shots of people in the stands. After all, they were leaving in droves. Ads, timeouts, shots of little children walking in the Washington bench area. The post-game and Lesley Visser asking Gibbs if, after three Super Bowl victories, "Might this be enough?"
Unfortunately, Lesley didn't get her scoop and Joe did not announce his retirement, or reveal that his team wouldn't try to repeat as champions.
One excellent rule CBS has is, no matter what happens, a microphone is never to be passed into the hand of Washington owner Jack Kent Cooke. Immediate termination of employment is the penalty.
Even so, the "Squire" pontificated on like a modern-day William Jennings Bryan with only a few seconds at his disposal. In the final analysis, though, it was Bradshaw who summed it up succinctly when he said, "Bruce Smith and those guys [from Buffalo] didn't play like stars."
Amen. And they no longer have to worry about the perceived lack of respect that seems to haunt them.
* Any thoughts of instant replay going the way of the flying wedge, the straight-on kicker and the full-house backfield are henceforth dispelled after yesterday. All along, proponents have prayed for replay to be something other than a time-consuming nuisance, to come through in a big situation to prove its worth. It did when Washington's apparent first touchdown was negated when receiver Art Monk failed to get both feet down inbounds after a catch. Vindication was a long time in coming, seven years.
* Talk about ridiculous: Twenty-six years in production and the Super Bowl doesn't even have a theme song yet.
* Easily the feature of the pre-game show was a monstrously unfunny talk with three Bears talk-show hosts from Chicago, including Norm (alias George Wendt) from "Cheers" that ended with one of them feigning a heart attack. Maybe you had to be there.