ABC Sports mobilized a small broadcasting army -- 200 people, 24 control trucks and mobile units, 20 cameras -- to bring unending, full blown, pregame-to-postgame coverage of Super Bowl XXII, with every aspect, angle and armpit blanketed.
But for all that technology, they couldn't even show the start of every play. And, as usual, even millions of network dollars could not ensure a competitive Super Bowl.
Four times in the first half yesterday, because we were watching a sideline shot, crowd shot or a replay a split-second too long, we didn't see the snap of the ball. That's inexcusable. It was indicative of a telecast that was a bit too busy and a bit too choppy. ABC, essentially, tried to show us a bit too much when all we ever demand is game action from start to finish.
But for their part, ABC Sports' pundits were equal to the pictures -- one of the few times in football memory that's happened. The replays and graphics often were terrific, but they sometimes didn't match broadcasters Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford, who may have had their best game of the season.
Michaels was flawless with his play-by-play. Dierdorf was sharp, endlessly pointing to the Broncos' failure to stop the Redskins' basic Counter-Trey play. Even Gifford, who usually provides little more than a pleasant countenance, was relatively insightful. Of course, there was too much talk -- there's always too much talk, but the networks aren't listening. This time, though, the talk didn't overwhelm the senses.
As is Super Bowl tradition, the pregame, halftime and postgame festivities were long and uneventful.
The pregame was mostly standard, tame stuff, with Jack Whitaker's Super Bowl ring story the standout. Host Keith Jackson provided a steady hand throughout, but listening to him, you half-expected the Alabama-Auburn game to follow.
ABC had 100 microphones on hand, and after listening to Lynn Swann, Mike Adamle and Becky Dixon during the pregame, I determined ABC probably would have done better to use only 97. (Actually, I preferred the commercials. My own hand-picked viewing group -- a friend, an ex-friend, a dog and myself -- started chanting for more commercials about midway through the pregame. Hey, analysis is one thing, but a real good Selsun Blue advertisement can be a better thing.)
By 6:15 p.m., it finally became apparent a game was threatening to break out.
ABC's unmatched statistical folks had their game faces on early. After Ricky Nattiel scored on Denver's first play, we found out immediately that, at 22 years 6 days, he was the youngest to score a Super Bowl touchdown.
When it appeared early on Denver was going to romp, you could sense the disappointment among the ABC announcers. So when Ricky Sanders' 80-yard touchdown reception brought the Redskins to within 10-7, Dierdorf cackled, "If you like a good football game, boy did we need this."
But Dierdorf soon was in for another letdown. While most of the nation waited eagerly for the debut of "The Wonder Years," Washington had The Wonder Quarter. By 8:30 p.m., desperate American TV viewers might have been scrambling for a rare look at NBC's lamentable "My Two Dads." It was 35-10 and it wasn't going to get any closer.
Halftime ran a little long -- it's tough to get 88 grand pianos on and off a football field in less than an hour -- and ABC, because of its contractual commitment to the NFL, was obliged to show another half of play.
Unfortunately for ABC, the second half was just a string of commercials interrupted occasionally by forgettable football. It's called a rout, another Super Bowl tradition.
ABC had a couple of minor technical glitches, but when you're using 75,000 feet of camera and microphone cable, someone's bound to trip here and there.
Thankfully, there were no instant-replay controversies in what may have been its final appearance. May it rest in slow-motion peace.
The postgame show consisted of several interviews. Nothing was said -- a minor upset, considering that Jack Kent Cooke and Dexter Manley each got to talk into live microphones.
The postgame highlight, in fact, might have been a commercial (the Super Bowl, after all, really is just a commercial bouquet to corporate America). It was Charles Mann for the yellow pages, wearing a Super Bowl ring and talking about how sweet it is to have won Super Bowl XXII. I couldn't figure out how it could have been written, produced and filmed so quickly after the game had ended. I thought about it all during "The Wonder Years."