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SUPER BOWL XXI : TELEVISION COMMENTARY : CBS Gets Caught Again on Instant Replay

January 26, 1987|LARRY STEWART

CBS wanted a close game, and that's what it had for a while Sunday.

But it turned into just another Super Bore blowout, and CBS unwillingly played a role in that.

The Broncos were leading, 10-7, late in the first half and had the ball at their 13, second and 12, when a pass to tight end Clarence Kay picked up an apparent first down at the 28. But the pass was ruled incomplete.

However, the officials, in order to determine if the ball, as ruled, actually did hit the ground before Kay caught it, checked the one replay CBS had shown.

But that one replay was inconclusive, so the call stood, even though, a little later, a fairly conclusive reverse-angle replay was shown. It appeared to show that it was indeed a catch.

On the play following the pass to Kay, quarterback John Elway was sacked for a safety.

The safety, which wouldn't have occurred had the pass to Kay been ruled complete, was one of the game's turning points.

Bob Trumpy, the commentator on the NBC radio broadcast, criticized CBS for not providing the reverse-angle replay sooner.

"TV did a poor job," Trumpy said on the air. "We're all in this together. Whether or not that is a catch certainly changed the personality of this game."

It took CBS about eight minutes to find the reverse-angle replay.

According to a CBS spokesman, it was the 10th and last replay that the crew in the production truck looked at.

Eight days earlier, CBS found itself in a similar situation during a college basketball game between then No. 1-ranked Nevada Las Vegas and Oklahoma.

Although the rule book does not permit it, an official in that game checked the television monitor at courtside to determine if a shot just before halftime was a two- or three-pointer.

The replay the official viewed was inconclusive, but a later replay showed that the shot should have been good for three points. But it stood as a two-pointer, and Las Vegas ended up losing the game by one point.

At least Sunday the Broncos didn't lose by one or two points. If they had, CBS would be taking a lot of heat from Denver fans today, justified or not.

CBS announcer Pat Summerall called the pass to Kay complete, and so did partner John Madden. But the officials saw it differently, and the replay CBS provided didn't get them to change their minds.

"That's going to be an interesting one," Madden said. And it was.

After the game, CBS director Sandy Grossman said a Denver player blocked the best replay.

"So what we showed was a replay from an end zone camera," Grossman said. "It was the best we could do.

"We didn't have an isolated camera on Kay because he is not a high priority. So we checked all 10 of our videotape cameras to see what we had.

"The 10th one we checked was the reverse angle that we showed."

But by then it was too late for the officials to change the call.

"The viewers are who we are concerned with, not the officials," Grossman said.

The officials used the replay rule one other time Sunday. With 43 seconds left in the first half, officials checked the replay to determine if a pass to the Broncos' Steve Sewell was complete.

This pass was ruled incomplete and the replay substantiated the call. So no big deal.

But the pass to Kay sure would have been, had the safety that followed directly affected the outcome.

At halftime, Commissioner Pete Rozelle was interviewed by Trumpy on radio and asked about that play.

"We've got to have more help from television," Rozelle said.

But television is already more involved than it wants to be. Would Grossman want an official talking to him directly during a telecast?

"Hell, no," he said.

Neal Pilson, CBS Sports president, issued a statement that sums up television's viewpoint.

"We are not a part of the NFL's instant-replay process," the statement said in part.

Brent Musburger, who was directly involved in the instant-replay controversy at the Las Vegas-Oklahoma basketball game, said at halftime Sunday: "I'm having doubts about the whole process because of the inability sometimes to bring back the correct angle and suddenly the networks are finding themselves right in the midst of making very important decisions."

Dan Dierdorf, appearing with Musburger, said: "You're putting a lot of pressure on the guys in the truck. It's a pressure we don't particularly want.

"But at least the system didn't overturn a call. Without the instant-replay system, the calls would have been the same."

If the idea of the instant-replay rule, which was used for the first time this season, was to eliminate controversy, it has failed.

It's just a different kind of controversy, and one television wants no part of.

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