Nantz not feeling pressure of calling his first Super Bowl

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

February 02, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

Jim Nantz has become such a ubiquitous presence over the 22 years he has been with CBS Sports that somehow it doesn't sound right to hear that Sunday marks his first Super Bowl play-by-play assignment.

But Nantz apparently isn't approaching the task weighed down by the gravity of being the voice for television's most-watched show.

"I'm going into this thinking one way," Nantz said in a conference call this week. "I'm going to watch a football game Sunday with one of my friends."

In this case, his friend is analyst Phil Simms, and 130 million or so people will be listening in on their conversation.

Viewers will be well-served by having these two call the game, for they form TV's best NFL announcing team. Surely you recall they ranked No. 1 in my poll of Jan. 5. Being that I'm the only voter, I can say they still rank No. 1.

Nantz, who twice has been host of CBS' Super Bowl pre-game show, said he has patterned himself after some of sportscasting's all-time greats.

"My career is a testament to the people I grew up listening to," he said, citing, among others, Jim McKay, Pat Summerall, Curt Gowdy and Ray Scott.

"None of them ever got into a broadcast booth and tried to make the game about them."

(Let's applaud, in particular, Nantz's mention of Scott, a master minimalist who might not be as well-remembered these days as he deserves. Kids, ask grandpa about who always seemed to be calling Bart Starr-to-Boyd Dowler touchdowns.)

Within 63 days starting Sunday, Nantz will make sportscasting history, becoming the first announcer to broadcast the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and Masters in the same year. So, Jim, what's left for you?

"Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials."

He was kidding, sure, but Nantz is co-hosting Commercials with Daisy Fuentes tonight at 9 (WJZ/Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9). The most popular ads, as determined by an Internet vote, will be shown.

Now, if CBS had just asked me, I could have ranked all of those commercials just the way I ranked the NFL broadcasters and saved them the trouble.

Feeling prepared

A quarterback needs confidence, and Simms still seems to have that in abundance. Asked about his approach Sunday, Simms said: "My job is to tell you why [something happened], and I believe I can always tell you that. ... You can ask me any question during the game, and I'll know the answer."

(OK, pal, then answer this: Whose horse was it that had a heart attack in Dean Wormer's office in Animal House?) ...

Speaking of quarterbacks, Simms said the spotlight on the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and the Chicago Bears' Rex Grossman minimizes the team aspect of football: "Everybody tries to separate quarterbacks like they're starting pitchers. ... It takes a lot of very good players to get to the Super Bowl." ...

Nantz said that though the focus on the Bears' Lovie Smith and the Colts' Tony Dungy has been on their making history as the first African-American head coaches in the Super Bowl, the two also break the mold in another compelling way: "The way these two lead, it goes against the popular conception about the way you have to be a coach. They rarely raise their voices. ... They don't use profanities."

Before kickoff

While you're putting out the nacho chips and setting out the Buffalo wings before Super Bowl kickoff, CBS provides the background noise with the mandatory four-hour pre-game show beginning at 2 p.m. Among the planned features: Dick Enberg interviews former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh; CBS News anchor Katie Couric reports on last year's Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his Korean heritage; Randy Cross checks in from Baghdad with American troops; and Boomer Esiason recounts the tradition of Bears middle linebackers.

Also, set your watch: Stevie Nicks performs at 3:55 and Cirque du Soleil at 5:45. You know, nothing says "football" like a raspy-voiced queen of 1970s music and French Canadian contortionists.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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