ABC Sports predicts that 120 million Americans will watch grown men who call themselves Broncos and Redskins kick a lump of leather around San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Millions more outside the range of one of ABC's 222 U.S. outlets will get to see Super Bowl XXII, fed live via satellite into 55 foreign countries, including Lebanon, South Africa and Nicaragua. But Iran and Libya will not get to see the Denver-Washington battle, beginning at 3 p.m. PST (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).
Even without Khomeini or Khadafi in the audience, the Super Bowl XXII game ball should still qualify as the most closely scrutinized football in Earth history. The ABC camera set-up inside the 60,000-seat stadium includes 32 cameras to watch the ball, and more than 100
phones to record reaction to its peregrinations. Most of the comments, of course, will come from the ABC broadcast booth, manned by Al Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf.
The cameras have become so commonplace in the wide world of ABC Sports that some of them have developed their own nicknames. Bruce, the wide-angle camera on the 50-yard line, casts a panoramic eye on all 100 yards. Three Slo-Mos will reduce the Super ball's high-speed pirouettes to miraculous mid-air suspension.
Cameras at every conceivable angle will focus on the ball, including five hand-held Mini-Cams, a remote-controlled camera on the goal post, a helicopter camera and a camera looking down from the Goodyear blimp.
In all, it will take 14.2 miles of cable just to feed all of the camera and audio coverage back into Super Bowl central.
ABC's tracking of Super ball's aerobatics will be watched from neighborhood pizza parlors to Chasen's.
Record and TV producer Pierre Cossette has managed to turn his 10th annual invitation-only party at the latter Beverly Hills eatery into a media event in its own right, with 300 of his closest industry pals, from Rona Barrett and Bob Newhart to David Geffen and Michael J. Fox, watching the game while they hobnob before the "Entertainment Tonight" and local TV news cameras.
And what happens to the ball at the end of the game?
"Somebody probably walks off with it," an NFL spokesman told The Times. "There's no provision for saving it or putting it in the Hall of Fame, so one of the players or someone on the field probably just takes it home."
For those who don't care about the fate of the Super ball, or who don't want to watch people watch football, or who don't watch football at all, the alternative pickings are slim on Sunday.
With a 3 p.m. starting time, that's not such a big deal on the West Coast, but in most of the country the game is on in prime time, and NBC and CBS have already conceded ratings defeat by scheduling reruns as counterprogramming.
CBS has a new installment of "60 Minutes" planned at 7 p.m., but then follows with a repeat of "Murder, She Wrote" at 8 and a 3-year-old TV movie, "Love, Mary," with Kristy McNichol as a dyslectic girl, at 9.
NBC is going with reruns of "Our House" at 7 p.m., followed by old episodes of "Family Ties" at 8, "My Two Dads" at 8:30 and a repeat of the TV movie "The Stepford Children" at 9.
Meanwhile, ABC will try to capitalize on its huge Super Bowl audience by following the game with a test run of a new sitcom, "The Wonder Years," set in suburbia in the late 1960s and featuring a 12-year-old boy as the hero.