Fox Almost Missed Critical Play
Sunday, January 31, 1999; 10:05 p.m. EST
The Atlanta defense wasn't ready for Rod Smith's game-breaking touchdown reception. Neither was Fox.
The television network nearly missed the crucial second-quarter play because of a technical difficulty. They went to a commercial three seconds later than scheduled, which resulted in resuming game coverage after Denver had already hiked the ball.
After the 30-second commercial, fans were greeted with John Elway already in play-action, ready to unload the long bomb to Smith.
"We almost didn't get back in time,'' said Fox play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall. "Atlanta didn't get back in time.''
"There's literally billions of dollars of technical equipment here and everything doesn't go perfect,'' Fox spokesman Vince Wladika said. "Pat did an excellent job of recovering and we didn't miss the play.''
The broadcasting duo of Summerall and analyst John Madden, working their seventh Super Bowl together, had their good moments and bad.
Madden was on the mark when he said the Falcons should take the "automatic'' field goal from Morten Andersen instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Denver 26 early in the second quarter. Atlanta gave the ball to Jamal Anderson, who was stopped for a loss.
Madden also mentioned that the loss of Shannon Sharpe wouldn't affect Elway as much as losing a top target would hurt most quarterbacks. Third-string tight end Byron Chamberlain caught a pair of key passes early in the second quarter, and both Smith and Ed McCaffrey had big games.
Andersen, however, was far from automatic and he proved that later in the first half when he shanked a 26-yarder that would have cut the Atlanta deficit to 10-6.
Producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman did a solid job of using their record-31 cameras for the telecast, although there were no controversial calls in which a replay was necessary.
One of those cameras was certain to catch Elway as he jogged off the field for what could be the final time.
Neither Madden nor Summerall, who announced that Elway was the Super Bowl MVP with about one minute left, believe that Elway will return in an attempt to win a third ring.
"John Elway can be the most valuable player for a lot of years,'' Madden said. "He's going to miss the competition and playing the game.''
Elway may be leaving, but Jerry Seinfeld returned to television in a commercial, of course.
The game commercials, which cost advertisers $1.6 million for a 30-second spot, were somewhat of a disappointment. Seinfield's anticipated American Express commercial aired during the third quarter and Victoria's Secret made its Super Bowl debut.
Thankfully, the game went by much quicker than the seven-plus hour pregame show, which moved about as fast as William "The Refrigerator'' Perry.
The festivities began at 11 a.m. EST with the kickoff show and the preliminary action lasting until Jason Elam's kickoff at 6:27 p.m.
Atlanta safety Eugene Robinson took some of the focus off the game after being charged with soliciting an undercover police officer for oral sex, but Fox did a good job not to overdo it. While Howie Long tried to defend Robinson and his character, Terry Bradshaw disagreed, saying, "How stupid, how stupid.''
There was even less discussion of Robinson's incident during the game.
The top segment of the afternoon belonged to Terry Bradshaw, who went to Texas to speak to Hollywood Henderson, the former Dallas linebacker who 20 years ago said that Bradshaw couldn't spell "cat'' even if spotted two letters.
Their reunion was both informative, humorous and heartfelt.
"I could spell 'cat,' '' Bradshaw laughed. "I don't care what you spotted me.''
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press