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The Seacrest Bowl

Fox's Super Bowl coverage offers more than football

Posted: Friday February 1, 2008 3:19PM; Updated: Friday February 1, 2008 7:02PM
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Ryan Seacrest
Will Ryan Seacrest, American Idol's golden boy, translate to a football audience?
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Super Bowl XLII
 
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During the first of three conference calls last week to promote its all-day Super Bowl broadcast, a Fox sports official boldly declared "the untraditional has become the traditional" at his network. Truer words have rarely been spoken as we arrive on the eve of Ryan Seacrest's debut as a Super Bowl pregame co-host. One never expected the worlds of Sanjaya Malakar and Sam Huff to collide. Well, they have. Seacrest in, old school out, and God help us all.

The ubiquitous American Idol host will interview celebrities as they walk red-carpet style into University of Phoenix Stadium prior to Super Bowl XLII. Is Seacrest something Joe Football Fan needs in his or her life?

"The traditional sports fan that I know is interested in more than sports -- and interested in the world in a much wider sense," said David Hill, the chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Television Group. "This is not taking over the pregame show. This is part of the pregame show.

"Our job is to match the Xs and Os along with what is going on around it," he said. "Every Super Bowl pregame show tries to capture the festival and celebration. Some people will say we went overboard. Others will say there wasn't enough of it. If I have offended 50 percent both ways, we will have done our job."

If you're wondering how this marriage of idols came about, Hill said he conceived the idea at last year's Super Bowl while listening to a Miami sports-talk station raving about a celeb-heavy Super Bowl party thrown at the Versace Mansion. The Fox executive was struck by the increasing intersection of celebrity and sports at the Super Bowl. He eventually contacted Seacrest's agent, and then Seacrest himself. "The way you're going, it's like America views pop culture through your eyes," Hill told Seacrest, who jumped at the chance to be seen by the one audience larger than his show.

It's going to be fun to see how the sports blogsphere reacts to the Seacrest-ization of the pregame. The conference call with the Idol host broke into the theater of the absurd at one point, as evidenced by this back-and-forth with an entertainment reporter (we offer no names or affiliations to protect the ridiculous).

Reporter: Ryan, I have two quick questions for you. What are you wearing? And what do you think other people are going to be wearing, because it's kind of casual and kind of fancy?

Seacrest: I'm wearing a football uniform, and I was just fitted in my pads and a mesh shirt from my old scrimmages.

Reporter: Hot. That would certainly boost ratings.

Seacrest: I'm debating: Either jeans, jacket or mesh.

Reporter: Oh, my Gawd!!! (excitedly).

Seacrest (turning serious): I expect those that are attending the Super Bowl will be in typical weekend wear, casual clothes to watch a game in.

This interaction brought to mind a line from TMZ.com last August when the Web site declared "The NFL and Ryan Seacrest go together like Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise." To his credit, Seacrest was the professional in that exchange. "There's going to be a whole bunch of people watching the show who are not football fanatics," Hill said, "but who are fascinated with the whole culture of the Super Bowl."

Of course, what would a Super Bowl pregame show be without Shepard Smith. Fox will begin its programming at 9 a.m. with a one-hour edition of Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, followed by a two-hour live block of political talk hosted by the Shepster.

At noon Fox will air a Road to the Super Bowl special narrated by Alec Baldwin and produced by NFL Films. At 1 p.m. Troy Aikman will be joined by Kurt Warner, John Elway and Doug Williams, among other Super Bowl quarterbacks, for a show titled Inside The Rings. That will be followed by Howie Long's Tough Guys Super Bowl Edition.

Then comes the Super Bowl Sunday pregame show at 2 p.m. ET, which will include musical acts from Paula Abdul (thankfully taped), Alicia Keys, and a duet by Willie Nelson and Sara Evans. The national anthem will be sung by Jordin Sparks, yet another member of the American Idol family, though with a strong football connection: She is the daughter of former Giant cornerback Phillippi Sparks.

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