ABC network was hype ringleader, but that is its appointed role

January 30, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

The TV Repairman:

It was shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday, a full two hours before the 49ers were to do what comes naturally for them in late January (plunder), when Steve Young said, "I don't think much needs to be said at this point."

Rest assured that didn't stop ABC, purveyor of the Super Bowl telecast, seen live in 174 countries around the world, plus two others yet to be named.

Seriously, how many of the folks crowded around a set on the border between North Korea and Manchuria picked up on what was going on during that Doritos-Disney halftime mayhem? On second thought, they probably got more out of it than the targeted American audience.

Words, words, words, more than any of us are apt to be subjected to in a relatively short period of time ever again. Unless, of course, you're attempting gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O. J. Simpson case.

All things considered, the deluge wasn't half bad until, after six hours of cooing about the rampaging Niners, the net decided to tack on an extra 30 minutes at 10 p.m.

But let's not be hypocritical about this. What transpired in Miami over the past several days had to do with football, yes, but only as one of the acts in the center ring of this three-ring circus.

To 35 percent of the fans on hand in Joe Robbie Stadium, compliments of an expense account, the action would have been strictly subliminal had it not been for some remarkable performances by certain San Francisco players.

Records, now you're talking. They always hit the spot. And endorsements. Why, this very moment, Young and Jerry Rice could probably command $1,000 just to jot down their initials. A whole autograph might be beyond anyone's means. Now you're talking a truly memorable Super Bowl.

Over the years, Brent Musburger has been subjected to more than his share of hits concerning his shameless shilling. But this isn't "Frontline," that's his job, touting the event and his network, and he remains as good as they come at keeping things moving at a pace suggesting excitement.

There wasn't a whole lot to latch onto here, mainly carrot and celery sticks as the pre-game production people lined up the usual tired features on the combatants, interspersed with talking heads and visits to party sites from the DMZ in Korea to Antarctica.

On the other hand, just how much more of this X's and O's business can we take on the last day of a season that started even before anyone knew who Lance Ito was/is?

Talk about Deion and Rice and Young and of how the 49ers continue to prosper when they should be deep into a fade after a decade of excellence. Sporadically, a word slipped in about the Chargers, although, in light of subsequent events, these could have been deleted.

"I went over the two squads in a comparison basis in my room last night," said commentator Dan Dierdorf, "and I came up with 49ers at 17 of the 22 positions."

"When we come back from commercial," boothmate Frank Gifford said, "I want to find out who those five are."

San Francisco scored on only its third play from scrimmage, the fastest score in Super Bowl history. "That's quite a statement the San Diego defense just made," said Dierdorf.

"It's as if the safeties were frozen, standing there waiting for an autograph," said Gifford shortly after Rice sped down the middle of the field and gathered in a bomb from Montana.

They scored the second time they had the ball, and the third time, too. It was appropriate that Dierdorf said, "I'm in favor of re-winding the tape to the national anthem and starting over."

So it was another blowout, the Chargers having no idea how to slow down these roadrunners, much less stop them.

The NFL and the network like to make as if the outcome of the game carries any real significance outside the cities of the teams competing, but the Super Bowl is clearly beyond that. To them and the advertisers who came up with $75 million to underwrite this extravaganza, the whole party is the thing. It's more important that the fan who paid $200 for his high end-zone seat and $1,000 to get there and the company peeling off $200,000 for a corporate tent and a couple of luxury boxes have a good time than guys playing in their 24th football game.

Still, it was you, me and the rest of the millions viewing and the people spending a million dollars for a 30-second ad, plus the million it takes to produce it, who truly make this thing go.

Dennis Hopper in front of the Nike logo as General Patton . . . beaten gubernatorial politicians Mario Cuomo and Ann Richards . . . the Pepsi ads. Advertisers know that it's a big price to pay underwriting this annual pre-Lenten, pre-Mardi Gras fling, but when those audience numbers come floating in. . . well, where do I sign for next year?

Proof of how almost trivial things can become on the field was available late in the game when ABC cut away from a play that resulted in yet another Frisco score to show coach George Seifert being given the ritualistic Gatorade bath. What would a big game be without this shot?

It's amazing the fact the drink company probably hasn't come up with one red cent to warrant all this free publicity over the last decade or so. Now there's even a bigger winner than the 49ers.

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