Madden-Michaels bring familiarity to Super Bowl XLIII broadcast
John Madden will be first broadcaster to call Super Bowl on all four networks
NBC got a break by having its advertising inventory sold before recession
What to expect in the pre-game, halftime and more broadcast notes
Admit it: You're more familiar with the Al Michaels-John Madden team that will be broadcasting Super Bowl XLIII than you are with the Pittsburgh and Arizona teams that will be on the field at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Sunday (NBC, 6 p.m. ET).
Given the proliferation of TV outlets and ever more fragmented viewing audiences, one can make the case that Michaels (play-by-play) and Madden (analyst) are the best-known pairing out there today and in the discussion of the best of all time.
Since 1982, there have been 27 Super Bowls. Either Michaels, Madden (or both) have broadcast 14 of them. On Sunday, Madden becomes the first to broadcast Super Bowls on each of the four networks that have carried the game.
Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, has been stockpiling high-profile talent for the NBC Sports production, which begins at noon ET Sunday.
"As of today (Tuesday) we're still looking for good people. We've got 21, and I want 22 so we can field two complete teams,'' he said -- and we don't think he was joking. "Coaches -- Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren -- will have to play. Mike's been unbelievably enthusiastic about this. He's harbored a desire to try this TV thing.''
Why so many people? "The challenge of doing the whole afternoon is to be interesting all the way through,'' said Ebersol.
But maybe the best move is one he didn't make -- resisting the temptation to add some of that talent to the booth for the game broadcast.
Instead, Michaels and Madden will work it themselves -- their third Super Bowl telecast together.
The feeling here long has been that Michaels could go the other way and broadcast solo. He's got a long list of former partners but has settled in with Madden, who, in a twist, said on HBO he'd retire before working with anyone else.
NBC will be broadcasting its 16th Super Bowl, but first since 1998. Dick Enberg, Paul McGuire and Phil Simms called that '98 game, a 31-24 Denver win over Green Bay. "That was our fourth Super Bowl in six years,'' said Ebersol. "You get used to it and think the good times are going to last forever.''
Instead, NBC declined to bid for the AFC rights later that year, leaving the NFL and not returning as a broadcast partner until 2006, when it bought the Sunday night package.
NBC got a break by having much of its Super Bowl advertising inventory sold before the economy really tanked.
"We were incredibly lucky,'' said Ebersol. "As of Sept. 5, we had 85 percent of the inventory sold. That was better than anyone had done before. It's been a tough slog since then but [as of Wednesday] we were down to the last two spots and haven't crashed the price in any way shape or form. We've got a dozen sold at $3 million per spot and the rest in the $2 million-plus range. I'm happy with that situation.''
It's not so good with the pregame show.
"Historically, that's sold in the last two months,'' he said. "We won't be setting any revenue records there, but I think the game might because of the previously sold inventory.''
Game producer Fred Gaudelli: "We've got ample equipment so any questionable calls should be covered. I'd hate to think we'd miss one.'' And Mike Pereira, NFL vice president of officiating, "is in the stadium and only a phone call away from our guys in the booth.''
It's the third Super Bowl for Michaels and Madden as a tandem. They previously did XXXVII (Tampa Bay-Oakland) in 2003 and XL (Pittsburgh-Seattle) in 2006, both for ABC.
This will be Madden's 13th Super Bowl, 11 as a broadcaster, one as a head coach, one as an assistant coach. He called eight games with Pat Summerall, with 16 the only man to call more than Madden.
It's the seventh for Michaels, the same number called by Curt Gowdy. There's another connection. In 1972, Michaels, then the Cincinnati Reds' broadcaster, joined Gowdy in calling the World Series on ABC.
If you have HBO On Demand, check out the "Call Me Al'' segment on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. It's a terrific recap of Michaels' career done by Jon Frankel.
More Pre Ramble:
It officially starts at noon with an NFL Films production, "Road to the Super Bowl,'' getting the day off with an hour of good inside football.
All involved are keeping Bruce Springsteen's halftime playlist a secret. "Bet it'll be upbeat though,'' said Bob Costas.
"It's easy covering the winners,'' said Cris Collinsworth, "but it's not fun helping you [viewers] understand how the losers feel walking off with the other team's colored confetti blowing in the air.''
The Patriots didn't make the playoffs but Collinsworth said coach Bill Belichick was terrific in breaking down film of both teams for a pregame segment.
"Coming from Kentucky with a lot of horse racing in my blood, you learn to pay attention to nothing but a horse's last three races,'' said Collinsworth. "If you pay attention to Arizona's last three games, watch out.''
Gambling? Las Vegas handicapper Sid Diamond on Boston radio: "I'm waiting for (guest analyst) Matt Millen to make his pick, then I'm laying it in on the other team.''