Monday, July 6, 2015

Super Sunday was Superfluous

Super Sunday dawned quietly in Philadelphia. The PTC was on strike and the airport was fogged in. In Los Angeles, things were somewhat sub-super too. Given the choice of spending $6, $10, or $12 to see the "dream sports event of a lifetime," the natives took advantage of a fourth opinion. They stayed home. Despite the local television blackout, there were 30,000 empty seats in the Coliseum when the Super Bowl started and considerably more before it ended.

In the only baseball World Series ever played in the 93,000-seat stadium, eight years ago, sellout crowds turned out for all three games and there was no blackout. Pro football may be the new national pastime on Madison Ave. but the news has yet to reach Hollywood and Vine.

What really happened must have been apparent to all but the wildest pro football addicts. After days and weeks of unprecedented bally-hoo, endless comparisons and debates, the Super Bowl game itself had become superfluous.

Except, of course, in TV-land. There, Super Sunday was an historic two-network sports marathon. On CBS, it began with a super fanfare (and a taped Harlem Globetrotter game) at 2 P.M. On NBC, it opened with a super, hour-long, pregame show at 2:30.

By 3:30, both networks had super pregame shows going full blast in their war for viewers. NBC's was called "Kickoff minus 30 minutes." CBS's was labeled, "Countdown to the World Championship." For millions of super viewers, outside the Los Angeles area, the moment of decision had arrived.

It had been a bitterly fought campaign. NBC had promoted its announcing team, Curt Gowdy and analyst Paul Christman. CBS had trumpeted the fact that it was the only network to cover the NFL games throughout the season. Now . . . finally . . . the polls were open. All of Madison Avenue held its breath.

Gowdy-Christman partisans loyally switched to NBC (Ch. 3) and were greeted by a close-up of Frank Gifford, the super-analyst of the other network, wearing a blazer with the CBS eye prominently displayed on the pocket. NFL-CBS boosters eagerly switched to Channel 10, where, if their timing was good, they saw Christman in his NBC blazer.

After all that commotion, they were doing a pre-game (and post-game) simulcast. There, big as your screen would allow, were Christman and Gifford, arm in arm. Not only had the NFL merged with the AFL, but CBS had merged with NBC. Wait until Emmanuel Celler hears about this.

Grand finale of the pregame, super-spectacular involved man-in-the-street type interviews. A character in Baltimore stared into the Nation's living rooms and said, "This here Kansas City ain't got nothing. Green Bay will beat 'em to teensy-weensy little pieces." His expert observations were topped only by a Buffalo, N.Y. policewoman. Asked for her opinion about the Super Bowl, she said, "I don't know anything about it. Is it football?"

Once the game started, the rival announcers went their separate ways, providing exclusive words and non-exclusive pictures. Included was a super shot of 4,000 pigeons flying over the stands. Pete Rozelle didn't immediately indicate whether Coliseum fans would be permitted to deduct. The amount the amount of their cleaning bills from the price of their tickets.

For an hour, it was a good TV show - on either network. Then came halftime, featuring a super-silly "symbolic shaking of hands of the two leagues," and the super letdown began. From the moment thousands of multi-colored balloons were released and a CBS voice babbled, "What a climax to one of the most spectacular halftime shows I'm sure you'll agree you've ever seen," Super Sunday went steadily downhill.

Granted, there were moments of sheer brilliance. Shortly after Kansas City yielded Green bay's third touchdown, for example, CBS sneaked in a plug for a show called, "Mission Impossible." But such inspired touches couldn't save the day.

Neither could CBS analyst Pat Summerall, who drew the unlucky assignment of interviewing Green Bay's Vince Lombardi after the runaway. The winning coach took the victory so much in stride he looked downright bored.

"As you can see there's a lot of excitement here," Summerall chirped desperately, trying to pump life into the show.

The rival network showed real class, however. Prior to the opening kickoff, NBC carried a commercial for Tum's. When the game ended, it spent a minute selling Bromo Selzer. After subjecting its viewers to five hours of Super Sunday, NBC had the decency to get them ready for Miserable Monday.