Fox TV announcers Troy Aikman (left) and Joe Buck were clear, concise and balanced throughout the Super Bowl XLII broadcast.
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While it takes a global village to cover Super Bowl XLII -- the game aired in 223 countries and 30 languages and 60 international broadcasters covered the game -- it takes only a keyboard and an ergonomic office chair to grade the broadcast. Below, we offer SI.com's grades for Fox Sports' coverage of Super Bowl XLII, a game for the ages:
Fox dotted its pregame show by going behind-the-scenes with the players to draw out their personalities: The well-traveled Giant defensive end Osi Umenyiora dressed up as a Buckingham Palace guard while Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison revealed he was nicknamed "Doodie" by his brother and had "bad gas" as a kid. (Maybe that's too much information, Rodney). The features were generally good. What was not good was the nexus between celebrity and football. The red carpet element, fronted by Fox's own Ryan Seacrest, was little more than a place for frivolous conversation and celebrities to hawk their wares. Quite frankly, it was annoying. Fox saved face with some spirited football talk between its analysts and a gorgeously produced reading of the Declaration of Independence featuring Jim Brown, Warrick Dunn, Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Alan Page, Don Shula, Roger Staubach, Lovie Smith among other NFL notables. Grade: B-
She was great. And Fox's production team showed a fabulous shot of her exhaling following her performance of the national anthem. She clocked in at 1:54, which is probably a little long for Dr. Z
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
In a game for the ages, Buck and Aikman lived up to the drama. They were prepared, and they called a superb game. Buck's first touchdown call ("Maroney right side. Touchdown, New England) was straightforward, and then he thankfully let the crowd tell the story before he talked again. He also did it on both the Patriots' final touchdown (Brady. Moss. Touchdown. Silence) and the game-winning touchdown ("Manning lobs it. Burress. Alone. Touchdown, New York."). Aikman was also sharp. He immediately pointed out on the first score that the Pats ran the ball to the side occupied by linemen Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur, both of whom missed the regular season-finale against the Giants. Buck probably got grilled in some places for saying in the second quarter that the Giants could not have hoped for a better half (If you're a Giant fan, you're thinking 27-7 would be a better half) but the point was clear: The Giants were in the game big.
Prior to the broadcast, Buck talked about calling a game for an audience that includes millions of casual fans. "You have to cover the game that is in front of you with a nod and an eye on the fan that might not know everything the fantasy players know, or the people who are on Web sites or who regularly watch the NFL Network," he said. "You have to strike a balance." He and Aikman did that most of the night. (They were the first broadcasting team to call the same club four times [the Giants] in one postseason). Buck was on top of the action when Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs picked off an Eli Manning pass, noting that it was Manning's first interception since he was picked off by Hobbs in the final week. He was eagle-eyed when Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn failed to sprint off the field in time to avoid a penalty (12 men on the field) with 11:00 left in the third quarter. Aikman did not hesitate in calling for the Giants to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the final two minutes, and both were exceptionally measured on Manning's miraculous 32-yard pass to wideout David Tyree. They even managed to keep calm when all hell broke loose with one second left. Buck and Aikman did not get in the way of a taut and thrilling game; they added to it.
Seacrest reveled in the double entendre of Laurie's father winning a gold medal for rowing in the coxless pairs at the 1948 London Olympics. Dude, the guy's dad won a gold medal and you're going Mr. Roper on him? Laurie stood cool. Well done, sir.
She usually gets something interesting out of her subjects and reported a nice nugget early: the Giants watched a 2:30 video of highlight clips set to Green Day's "Time of Your Life" to inspire them. Her feature on Giants coach Tom Coughlin, included a nice get by Fox's producers: an interview with Coughlin's wife, Judy. ("I want him home but not all the time," she said.) Oliver benefited from Fox's cozy relationship with Michael Strahan to get him 20 minutes before game time. After the game, rather than make herself part of the celebration (read: most sideline reporters), she was poised and simply asked Plaxico Burress questions. He broke down in tears on camera, overwhelmed by the moment. That's money. And so was Oliver.
"If New England loses," Bradshaw said, "they become the worst 18-1 team in NFL history." Good line. Bradshaw gets a big grade here for his pregame interview with Tom Brady. Here, he used his fame and relationship with the quarterback to help viewers get inside Brady. He asked the Patriot quarterback, "Do you like being famous?" That's a small question, but it's a great question. Then he morphed into Brady's thoughts on being a father and asked Brady if he wanted to get married. Bradshaw got more personal stuff out of Brady than Seacrest did of any of his subjects. He was also excellent in the postgame. If Fox Sports chairman David Hill wants to be really bold, he should put Bradshaw (Howard Stern would probably be my dream choice, actually) on the red carpet and let him interview celebrities. That way, we might actually get something interesting.
She was live -- and kicked butt.
Menefee handled his traffic cop part with charm and humor. He pressed colleague Jimmy Johnson on the Boston Herald story that an unidentified source said a member of the Patriots' video staff taped the Rams' last walk-through prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. When Johnson defended the practice, Menefee said, "You and [Bill] Belichick are boys. I love you, but you are not just covering for him, are you?" Sure, he went off the tracks a couple of times (In a clear example of why the writers' strike needs to end soon, Menefee declared Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes was "the most famous New York kicker since the "Rockettes'"), but he gets major credit here for saying, "the sad fact is more people vote on American Idol than in our election." Remember, he said it on Fox. He anchored a great feature on the camaraderie between the Giants defensive linemen. Of course, if you can't get something good out of Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, it's on you. Menefee also injected football into the discussion often, including whether Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss would come back to the Pats. He was even self-deprecating when he stumbled and bumbled on the word "singing." All in all, he had a very good broadcast.
He fronted an early feature on the definition of perfection and then disappeared for the next four hours. But Myers earned his paycheck. He reported from the field that Brady was pain-free and got some good feature stuff from Tedy Bruschi minutes before the start. At halftime, he reported that lineman Stephen Neal would not return and that Belichick said his defense might have to win the game. Tough, tough gig interviewing Belichick after the game. He did about as well as anyone could in that spot. He also starred in a commercial for AMP Energy, which was, well, strange.
Willie Nelson and Sarah Evans
Nice performance. Just please remember to the pay the IRS, Willie.
Fox has a business channel? Maybe I should watch. Cavuto's pregame pick: Giants 31, Patriots 28.
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