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Original Issue


A Pregame to Remember

Did anyone actually watch Super Bowl XXVI? I'm still trapped in the middle of the CBS pregame show. They didn't even let Greg Gumbel inside the Metrodome until nearly 30 minutes into the program. As pregame shows go, this one did start before the game, but it apparently continued early into the second quarter.

Pregame shows, of course, are generally a series of commercials interrupted intermittently by occasional game information. (CBS. incidentally, also took this opportunity to launch its pregame show for the Winter Olympics a scant 316½ hours before the opening ceremonies.)

This pregame extravaganza was so long, CBS had time to show us astronauts in space, Tim McCarver in France and Curry Kirkpatrick in shorts. (I guess we should be thankful McCarver was not aboard the space shuttle Discovery, where he would have taken several light-years to explain zero gravity.) Then there was slicker-than-an-oil-spill Pat O'Brien joining Da Bears' tailgaters for a reasonably tasteless bit—nothing like some good pregame heart-attack humor!!!

Pregame highlight: Randy Cross reminding us, "The Super Bowl is won down in the trenches." (I love the trenches.)

Pregame disappointment: Lesley Visser's wardrobe. It suffered because the game was indoors. Recently, for a playoff game at chilly Soldier Field, Visser unleashed a reasonably tasteful light-brown overcoat, white turtle-neck, red scarf, dark-blue gloves, white ear-muffs and a red hat with a black band. Now, that would have looked good in the trenches.

The pregame proceeded apace—I had pizzas delivered at the top and bottom of each hour—and finally we reached the coin toss. The coin toss! This is my favorite part: As a worldwide television audience looks on, the most powerful nation on the face of the earth is reduced to watching a referee explain to fellow Americans which side of a coin is heads and which is tails. I hate to imagine what the Japanese were thinking.

Eventually the game began. Kick-off came at 6:22 p.m. EST. But referee Jerry Markbreit hadn't blown the whistle to start the game—probably because he was unsure if the pregame had ended—so he made the Bills kick off again three minutes later. (CBS then reported that Markbreit had been heard to joke about Murphy's Law on the field. But my people tell me he actually said, "Murphy Brown.")

Pat Summerall mindlessly informed us at the game's outset that the Bills were 7-1 after losing the coin toss. (I assume he unfortunately ran into ESPN's Norm Hitzges just before kickoff.) Other than that, Summerall and analyst John Madden enjoyed another splendid effort as football's best announcer team ever. Madden had one remarkable sequence in which he used the noun pants as a verb, as in "Look at Wilber Marshall—he almost pants-ed Andre Reed at the end of that play." Apparently Marshall was trying to, uh, remove Reed's trousers at that moment.

Incidentally, I believe the half-time show is still going on at the Metrodome as we speak.

And now I would like to take a moment out for these brief commercial comments.

1) With all due respect to that Pepsi miniseries: Gentlemen, I don't gotta have it.

2) Mike Ditka for Toyota? Whoa! Mr. America, Mr. Heartland, Mr. Let's Kick Some Iraqi Butt, what's the deal? I thought I saw the Bears late in the season taking their shoes off before huddling. Is that an all-you-can-eat teriyaki buffet at Ditka's restaurant? I guess even Da Biggest Bear has his price, albeit in yen.

3) USAir asked us to remember the first time we saw a plane fly. I'm a little fuzzy on that, but I do recall the last time I sat in a plane. I was on an O'Hare runway, awaiting takeoff for more than two hours.

The Super Bowl, of course, is generally a series of commercials interrupted intermittently by one team occasionally scoring a lot. The Redskins obliged. When it reached 24-0, I turned off the TV.

God, I longed for the pregame.