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TV Review : On a Day When Rice Is Cooking, NBC Serves Up a Good Show

January 23, 1989|Larry Stewart

Well, at least Bud Bowl I wasn't more exciting than Super Bowl XXIII.

For a while, it appeared the commercials on Super Sunday would be better than the game.

But in the end this game was tailor-made for television, thanks in part to John Taylor's late touchdown for the San Francisco 49ers.

The first half, however, wasn't anything to write home about. It highlighted broken bones and a broken field-goal attempt. Deadly boring, unless you enjoy those kind of things.

But then came Stanford Jennings' 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a scoring catch by Jerry Rice, and things got interesting.

Suddenly, announcers Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen were talking about a Super Bowl that was headed for an exciting finish.

It was, all things considered, a good day for Enberg, Olsen and NBC.

The announcers made only one significant mistake. They had Chuck Thomas as the 49er center who muffed the snap on the failed field goal in the first half. Actually, it was Randy Cross.

Olsen corrected their mistake later in the game.

Nothing much else was missed, although NBC was a little late coming back from one replay.

Speaking of replays, most were outstanding, although a few were slow in forthcoming, particularly the one which showed what happened when Cincinnati's Tim Krumrie broke his leg.

When it was finally shown, it was pretty gruesome. "That's one you don't want to see again," Olsen said. And NBC showed it only once more--later in the day.

You might recall when Joe Theismann suffered a compound fracture when hit by Lawrence Taylor during a Washington-New York Giants Monday night game a few years ago, ABC drew criticism for showing the replay over and over.

A minor complaint about the coverage was that director Ted Nathanson did too much camera switching. You're watching one thing, then, boom, you're watching something else.

But this is a flaw common to almost all televised sporting events, not just Super Bowls. At least Nathanson generally stayed away from crowd shots.

In the beginning, NBC set the table nicely. The opening for the pregame show was well done and graphically appealing--and much better than the self-serving closing after the game, in which clips from the major events NBC has covered recently were shown.

"It's been an incredible time for NBC in which we covered the Olympics, the World Series and now the Super Bowl in a short period of time," said Michael Weisman, NBC Sports' executive producer, in defending the closing.

A story that was dealt with on the pregame show--the suspension of Bengal running back Stanley Wilson for violating the National Football League's substance-abuse policy--was virtually ignored during the game by Enberg and Olsen.

Said Weisman: "We would have talked about Wilson's absence more had it been a factor."

Overall, Weisman, Enberg and Olsen, talking to a few reporters on a conference call following the game, gave themselves pretty high marks.

"I think we had a telecast we can be proud of," Enberg said. "We allowed the game to be the thing.

"When Krumrie went down in the first quarter, I turned to Merlin and said, 'We'd better get all our material ready.' " He feared a 49er rout.

But the Bengals hung in there, and NBC is thankful for that.

So how did Enberg rate this game as an all-timer? "I'm not sure yet," he said. "We'll have to wait and see where it's place in history will be.

"It was a dramatic game, a good game, but not a great game."

Said Olsen: "It was not a great game until the finish."

The much ballyhooed 3-D effect for the halftime show was underwhelming, as was the Diet Pepsi Talent Challenge. Cincinnati's Mike Martin, the winner, and the Rams' Michael Young have some real talent, but the other contestants were a little rough on the edges.

Incredibly, the judges gave Philadelphia's Reggie White second place and Atlanta's John Scully third. Maybe they felt Young's song, "A Whole Lot of Rosie," had too many repetitive phrases.

Channel 4 viewers got a special treat, the "Fred and Tommy Show," with Fred Roggin and Tommy Lasorda. It was sort of a post post-game show.

The two were first seen in a crush of reporters around Joe Montana. Lasorda later found Jennifer Montana an easier interview.

The two interviewed anybody they could find, such as 49er Steve Young, who didn't play. They talked with Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News. Of course, what would any Super Bowl post-game show be without Huey?

They got to Christie Brinkley, too. You can't knock that.

They finally did corner one of the day's heroes, John Taylor. But Lasorda probably didn't endear himself to the Rams and Raiders when he told Taylor, "Let's do the same thing again, the Lakers, Dodgers and 49ers all winning world championships."

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