ABC show is solid, though not stellar

ON MEDIA

super bowl

February 06, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

At halftime, it was "Satisfaction." Overall, it was satisfactory.

Like the Rolling Stones at halftime, ABC's Super Bowl telecast last night rocked sufficiently, but not spectacularly. Like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Al Michaels and John Madden put on the show we've come to expect.

The network's production, once the game started, was as professional and crisp as any Monday Night Football telecast, which is to say of high standard.

The best technical piece was the red line of scrimmage that appeared on a replay of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's scramble and long pass to Hines Ward before the first touchdown. Had Roethlisberger just skirted with legality before letting fly? Yes, he had.

But did Roethlisberger really score on his dive around end? ABC had the best possible looks. Inconclusive, the referee apparently decided. Hmm, I don't know about that, those not clad in black and gold might have said.

Earlier in the first half, Madden was critical of the Steelers. "It doesn't look like they have a plan," he said of their sputtering offense.

The Seattle Seahawks' plan at the start apparently was to get the ball to wide receiver Darrell Jackson, and he kept catching pass after pass. Then, in the second quarter, he was nowhere to be seen. We could have used an explanation.

As mentioned in the pre-game show, the Steelers' fan contingent at Ford Field overwhelmed Seattle's, causing Michaels to say: "This place is about as neutral as Lake Placid when the U.S. hockey team played the Soviets." And who would know better than the "Miracle" caller himself?

At the end of the first half, Madden and Michaels weren't letting the Seahawks off the hook for their poor play selection and clock management. When sideline reporter Suzy Kolber tried to ask Seattle coach Mike Holmgren about the "confusion" as he headed to the locker room at halftime, Holmgren was focused elsewhere. Instead, he answered about how he was arguing with the officials about the call on Roethlisberger's touchdown.

In the third quarter, Madden put on a little coach's clinic in showing how Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu got half-picked, half-drawn away to leave Jerramy Stevens wide-open for Seattle's touchdown. We saw it several times.

Which made it more disappointing in the fourth quarter when we didn't get such a definitive look at the apparent confusion in the Seahawks secondary on the gadget play where Antwaan Randle El hit Ward for a score. Madden said that the backup safety had been sucked in, but ABC didn't show a replay to back up his words.

You can't have everything, I suppose, but you like to have important things explained and illustrated in a Super Bowl.

In the waning moments, both announcers seemed bewildered at the Seahawks' poor choices with the clock running out. It was "a mess at the end," Michaels said.

And when the game was over, Madden made this inadvertently literal observation as the camera gave us a tight shot of Steelers coach Bill Cowher: "He is soaking in this moment."

Given that his players had just doused him with a water bucket, Cowher actually was soaking - in that moment.

The man who was so much of the focus leading up to the game, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, was miked up during the game, but to little value.

Speaking of sound, audio problems curiously hampered the pre-game show. Music being piped into Ford Field nearly drowned out the commentators on numerous occasions. The sound even faded in and out on singers during the Stevie Wonder-led music performance. Glitches are the last thing you'd expect during a Super Bowl telecast.

The best part of the pre-game? New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick breaking down defensive keys of past Super Bowl winners. Who knew that when his team played the St. Louis Rams, the Patriots read pass or run simply by whether or not running back Marshall Faulk lined up directly behind the quarterback?

The funniest? George Wendt reprising his "Da Bears" fan while sitting down to a heart-attack-inducing meal with Mike Ditka, praising the ex-Chicago coach because, among other things, "your hair alone could solve our dependence on foreign oil" and getting Ditka to autograph one of his hips that had been surgically replaced.

The most repetitious? Michael Irvin harping on how the crowd noise would favor the Steelers.

The most un-funny? Jimmy Kimmel using the key to the city of Detroit for supposedly wacky antics.

If only the music on the field had drowned that out.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell

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