`EyeVision' pleasant sight for viewers

Innovation provides different viewpoints, proves illuminating

Ravens 34, Giants 7

January 29, 2001|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN TELEVISION WRITER

One highly promoted CBS talent is likely to emerge as a crowd-pleaser from last night's Super Bowl: the "EyeVision" technology, which gave new dimension to football plays.

The innovation combined the digitally recorded footage of 33 cameras, covering 270 degrees of Tampa's oval stadium. Producers could freeze and cut between different viewpoints. That proved particularly illuminating during an 84-yard, third-quarter touchdown run by Ravens punt returner Jermaine Lewis, as the camera angle shifted repeatedly to show the holes that he exploited in the defensive coverage.

"EyeVision" may not have been a complete overnight success, like the computerized first-down line now commonly superimposed on TV footage during games. But it was a promising start for the $2 million technology.

As for the game itself, it was relatively listless trench warfare for much of three quarters, accompanied by sharp defensive play by the Ravens. Despite the 34-7 final score, neither team established much offensive momentum. Say what you will, that makes for less than scintillating television - unless you happen to have a stake in the game. (See: Baltimore.) Even when the game picked up, it was almost all one-sided. (Again, see Baltimore.)

CBS play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel and commentator Phil Simms performed capably, making no obvious missteps - other than utterly failing to predict that the Ravens would walk away with the game. Yet Simms revealed more than he realized when he kept talking about three-and-out, three-and-out (that's three downs and punt on offense). A lot of people watching who weren't allied with either team may well have pulled a similar move - stayed for three quarters, then switched the channel.

CBS executives, covetous of major audiences to stay tuned for the premier of "Survivor II" after the game, must have hated it when the Ravens returned the kickoff after the lone Giants touchdown for their own score and a 24-7 lead. At one point, a graphic featuring the "Survivor" title and logo offered statistics comparing the offensive output of Ravens opponents.

After the game, over on WBAL, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was asked for her favorite play.

"I loved it when we made that football," she said. "The Giants had just made a football, and we came right back."

There were moments indelibly sketched on the memory, such as when Giants quarterback Kerry Collins' index finger circumnavigated his own nostril as the camera focused on him.

More movingly, an ad featured a disabled artist (and Towson University graduate student) who was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary "King Gimp."

There were also several clever ads, including one that offered Budweiser's uber-WASP send-up of its own "Whassup?" commercials, and a Charles Schwab spot where the mother counseling her child to invest wisely turns out to be Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

Some of the advertising was embedded during the broadcast of the game. There was repeated touting of Raymond James Stadium, named for an investment house, not a person, the Radio Shack SkyCam and the Budweiser.com blimp; and there were also the Ruffles Pre-game Show, the E*Trade Halftime Show, and periodic updates from the Xerox Phoenix Open.

In addition, last night's telecast marked the first time I've ever seen a paid commercial on network television employing a coarse word for stinks. An upscale couple is shown reprimanding their defensive daughter because of her punk boyfriend. "Do you want to know what your little friend said?" the ashen-faced mother asks the girl. "He said, and I quote, `Horse racing sucks.' "

The girl, shocked, promptly picks up the boy and tosses him out of the house, as an announcer says, "In Maryland, horse racing is sacred."

Of course, in a skit introducing the halftime show, comic Ben Stiller told the group 'N Sync that their singing "N-sucked." That use of the word could perhaps be considered justified.

Seeing one-time anti-authority rockers Aerosmith vamp and sing "Walk This Way" at halftime with such corporate pop stars as 'N Sync and Britney Spears reminds you that money talks. At the Super Bowl, home of the Super Hype and the Super Shill, maybe that shouldn't be a surprise.

As Ravens lineman Tony Siragusa could be heard to say at the outset of the game, "Let's (E*Trade-ing) rock, man."

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