Three students at Syracuse University, a school known for its success spawning some of America’s finest sports announcers, assessed the Super Bowl telecast from a younger lens.
The 2019 Super Bowl was the worst one that I’ve ever watched. (I’m a senior in college so I obviously haven’t see everyone.) It was even more difficult to watch than the Seahawks massacre of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Sunday’s game had no storyline. It was just plain boring.
This said, CBS did a decent job of salvaging the telecast. The broadcast duo of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo did their best to keep fans engaged. They made watching the game a little less painful and kept the punt clinic somewhat stimulating. Only in his second year in the booth, Romo is a natural. He and Nantz did what they could to keep the defensive show entertaining.
Boring Super Bowls are predictable problems. They are what they are and out of the control of the televising network. But there was still plenty left to be desired.
From a production perspective, CBS had the opportunity to spice up the game with new content like Next Gen Stats. It could have debuted a new technology system but it missed the mark. The network approached the Super Bowl as though it was just another regular season game. Honestly, if it wasn’t the Super Bowl, even passionate NFL fans would have turned it off.
Yet it was the Super Bowl and fans kept themselves around the television knowing that the game could’ve gotten interesting at any moment. However, a lot of people who watch the Super Bowl aren’t dedicated fans. They’re casual viewers who have to work the next morning.
CBS missed a chance to tap into technology and enrich the viewer experience. There were so many ways that Next Gen Stats or other technologies could have been implemented in an informative and clever way, but the network played it safe. There has to be something in development by CBS or a sports technology company that could have been introduced.
In fact, a lot of the commentary surrounding the Super Bowl broadcast in the weeks leading up to it was on the use of augmented reality in graphics and the use of the 360° instant replay. However, the augmented reality graphics only made a few appearances, same as the 360° instant replay. Next Gen Stats were hardly even used, with the main (and possibly only) usage of the technology slipped in during a 30 second package after halftime prior to the second half kickoff .
A jewel on the broadcast was sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. She filed one update in particular that resonated. It was about Todd Gurley. It was concise and informative, sharing with viewers what they needed to know without detracting from other elements of the broadcast. Gurley, a star running back, was missing in action during the biggest game of the year and Wolfson’s report was timely and detailed. It covered why he was used sparingly.
In all, CBS did an acceptable job with a relatively dull on the field product; a boring, low-scoring Super Bowl. Just wish that the CBS production team would have been up to the task, prepared to tweak things a bit when it faced a foreseeable issue, a game that wasn’t very stimulating.
I felt that CBS did a decent job on Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Patriots and Rams.
Understandably, Jim Nantz talked less than Tony Romo because as a play-by-play announcer his assignment is to set up the analyst. Romo continues to live up to his rapid stratospheric hype, one earned by a masterful performance in the AFC championship game between the Chiefs and Patriots.
On Sunday, as he has all season, Tony looked comfortable and happy on camera. Announcers who look happy can put viewers in a positive frame of mind. Romo does an excellent job of detailing the game plans of both teams and suggesting to viewers what to expect and what to focus on and watch. The former Cowboys quarterback was immediately on top of strategical changes and adjustments, elaborating for viewers what coaches are trying to accomplish.
If fans feel that Romo talks too much, it’s probably because his mind is racing and that his brain is exploding with information and anticipation. Because of this bustling football intellect, there are times he goes off on tangents and strays from what is happening on the field.
Tracy Wolfson, the sideline reporter, did an excellent job reporting on the broken arm suffered by the Pats’ Patrick Chung. But they did not go to her very often. Nantz and Romo also did not communicate much with Gene Steratore. But, you play the hand you’re dealt and there weren’t many tricky officiating calls that required Steratore’s expertise.
For the most part, the camera angles and shots taken were good. But I did feel a couple of the kickoff and punt angles were weird. Some of the shots were too low for my taste or too off to the side. After Patriots’ defensive back Patrick Chung was hurt and headed into the tunnel, I felt the director held that shot too long.
I liked the replays and graphics during halftime and the Next-Gen Stats in particular. It was new and caught viewers attention. The crew used a first-person view to show one of Tom Brady’s passes and I thought it worked out well for viewers too. The halftime and post-game analysis shows were standard yet solid.
The post-game production was rough. The crew at CBS should have allowed the teams time to congratulate each other and celebrate. The producers might have missed an opportunity to get good wide shots of the confetti, players and coaches and their families. If the director cut to another camera for all that, the post-game interview scrum wouldn’t have seemed as bad or noticeable for the people at home. Tracy Wolfson ended up in a mob of videographers, security and photographers, all trying to congregate around Tom Brady.
Any Google search prior to Super Bowl LIII relating to the assignments of network announcers produced countless articles about Tony Romo. Site after site had its own take on how exciting the big game would be, particularly because the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback would serve as analyst. For Romo, who has earned so much praise, it would be his first Super Bowl broadcast.
The game’s storyline from a New England perspective, focused on Tom Brady’s attempt to match the entire Steelers organization for Super Bowl rings.
Romo was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and did a fine job enhancing the experience of the viewer. That said, there were a few things left to be desired by the broadcast as a whole. For one, Romo appeared to discuss the Rams defense constantly in the first half, praising Wade Phillips for switching between man and zone defenses and making it difficult for Brady to read LA’s coverage before the snap.
Of course, a defensive coordinator who is able to confuse one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history deserves to be talked about, but the dominant play by the Patriots defense was simply glossed over for much of the night. The fact that the Rams’ high-powered offense was held to just 29 yards in the first quarter was not a point of discussion. Aside from specific plays in which the New England defense batted down a pass or expertly covered a Rams receiver, little was said on the subject of the Patriots defense as a whole.
Perhaps Julian Edelman’s explosive performance, in which he had ten receptions on 12 targets for 141 yards, overshadowed New England’s impressive work on the other side of the ball. Because of this, maybe Romo felt he needed to focus on a facet of the Rams’ performance that was positive. But at certain times, it felt like he was just disregarding the Patriots defense altogether.
Certainly, both teams played well defensively, and, obviously, there was a severe lack of impressive offensive plays on both sides of the field. Still, Romo’s love for the game of football and his contagious attitude generally make watching games he’s broadcasting a pleasure. That’s why there are seemingly hundreds of articles detailing what makes him such an exciting broadcaster.
There are times however when it’s okay to say that a game is not as exciting as anticipated. In a championship matchup featuring names like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods, it should be acceptable for a commentator to explain that this is not the game everyone was expecting.
A Super Bowl where no touchdowns are scored until the fourth quarter seems to fall into this category. And because of it, all of that enthusiasm in the booth can feel somewhat forced, when many of the people who are actually enjoying the game are the Patriots fans because their team is winning.
Commentators covering a Super Bowl should really examine and grade all facets, offense, defense and more, of both teams. They should also be fully transparent. If the game hasn’t lived up to its lofty prospect, say so. This said, the broadcast was still enjoyable!