If CBS-TV's Super Bowl were a Broadway play, it would have a tough time showing a profit for the investors. Not that it was a hopeless show from the time Brent and Irv and Phyllis et al. came on in midafternoon. Just that, like the Bengals, CBS had too many fumbles.
For starters, they ought to retire the Chalkboard next season. They ought to tell Pat Summerall that he can be so laid back in a big game, it sounds as if he's in macrame class. As for Terry Bradshaw, they ought to send him back to the Steelers C.O.D. The label on the package would say, "Failed Inspection."
On the other hand, they ought to give John Madden a loving bear hug for making a less-than-scintillating game as interesting as it was. Whoever composed the on-the-screen graphics ought to get an A-plus. Same grade for producer Terry O'Neil, who kept CBS's big black eye mainly on the game.
First, a few things CBS did right.
Double plus for restraint: remember Super Bowls of the past where the cameras cut from Announcer A on the roof to Talker B on the sidelines to Straight Man C in the booth? Remember the "Hi, moms" every other play? Remember the time, only one year ago, when NBC showed 180 replays in a single championship game?
O'Neil, bless his heart, knows how to keep things clean. I counted fewer than 100 replays, meaning that we were able to catch our breath and look at the coach's reactions every other series or so. There were few shots of attention-starved goofballs in the stands and no promos for the next CBS sitcom you won't want to miss.
But best of all, it was just Summerall and Madden during the game. Brent, Irv, Phyllis and the cast of thousands (Can you believe it? Even Charles Osgood) were kept in the wings, deployed on the pregame and postgame shows.
Plus for Madden: the paper-smashing, hand-waving analyst has seen better games. He couldn't get guys' names right at the start. His humor never surfaced, except when he said Roger Staubach and Bradshaw may be the first quarterbacks ever to appear in a Super Bowl with flowers in their lapels.
Still, Madden proved to be a jewel of simplicity and clarity. He never talks down to you, yet he has a way of making complex plays understandable. O'Neil orders up a replay and it's like Madden is sitting next to you, poking an elbow in your side.
During a rerun of a second-quarter interference call against the 49ers' Lynn Thomas: "Now watch--right there!--see the shoulder on the bump just before (Isaac) Curtis got there?" It's like being led by the hand and told what to look for.
Madden has marvelous sound effects, too. He's from the Poom! Whoof! Whack! school of announcing.
Plus for the graphics: we weren't awash in them. And the ones we did see weren't of the "Ken Anderson has just passed for 8,000 yards" variety. Two graphics that predicted the story of the game in the first few minutes come to mind.
"Teams that scored first won 13 of 15 (Super Bowl) games," went the first. Said the second, after a San Francisco touchdown: "49ers are 13-1 when they've scored first." You could have switched the dial to Ramar of the Jungle and not missed a thing thereafter.
Now for a demerit list:
Minus for 'The Chalkboard': the new "Winky Dink and You"-style monitoring device that allows Madden to draw plays on the screen ought to be retired this week. It was distracting in a close game when CBS unveiled it three weeks ago and it is still a nuisance.
Maybe it would be all right if Madden simply diagrammed his Xs and Os on the wide-angle view of the field and then went back to live action. But to run the replay after he goes through the chalk routine shows nothing. I defy anyone except George Allen to follow more than 50 percent of the plays.
Minus for missed camera shots: despite the fact that CBS had 23 cameras on the premises, 18 of them presumably focused on the field, there were some notable lapses.
Early in the third quarter, a few players evidently threw punches at each other near midfield. A personal foul was assessed against San Francisco player No. 52. Did CBS not have the fight? Or did the network choose not to show it in deference to "good taste"? To compound matters, only Bobby Leopold's mother knew who No. 52 was. Summerall and Madden were too busy to tell us.
CBS gets another demerit for trying to be too artsy on a crucial play at the close of the first half.
Deep in their own territory, the Bengals mishandled a kickoff return. Director Sandy Grossman gave us the play off a hand-held camera in the end zone. The shot gave us an exciting field-level view of the action, but the foreshortening effect also left us muddle-headed.
How close were the 49er players to Archie Griffin when he fumbled? Two feet? Ten yards? Special shots are special so long as the director cuts back to the main feed camera when the bodies start spearing each other.
Minus for some spear carriers: I have not been able to determine whether Bradshaw considers himself (a) a singer, (b) Brent Musburger's court jester, or (c) a commentator in position to provide rare insights. Perhaps he doesn't know for sure.
As for the first lady of Kentucky, how does she wind up as the stadium host for the halftime show? Either Phyllis George is working for the NFL or she is working for CBS, which presumably is reporting the game. Does Dan Rather introduce the pianist at the Tuesday night concert at the White House?
Finally, Jimmy the Greek. They gave him about 30 seconds of air time before the game, which he used to pick Cincinnati. "No question about it," he said. It's going to be a long nine months before they let him pick another football game