Columnist

With no warning, CBS’ Suzanne Smith hopped to KC and called the shots in the truck for the AFC title broadcast

 

Podolsky

Veteran CBS Sports director Suzanne Smith was sitting in her Connecticut home two weeks ago when she got the phone call of a lifetime. It was the Friday before CBS’ broadcast of the AFC Championship game in Kansas City between the Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals. On the phone was CBS Sports executive producer Harold Bryant. He wasn’t calling to just say hello.

What had happened was unimaginable for a network about to broadcast their biggest NFL game of the year. Five-time Super Bowl director Mike Arnold, who was scheduled to direct the game, was placed in Covid protocols, leaving the director’s chair empty. Suzanne Smith had already been the only woman currently directing NFL games this year, but this wasn’t just any game. Smith, an eight-time Emmy winner, who has been with CBS Sports since 1983, had already been named to replace Bob Fishman as the director of CBS’ No. 2 NFL game after Fishman retires this April. By 2 p.m. Friday she was at LaGuardia Airport and on her way to Kansas City. She arrived Friday evening and met with everyone at the truck.

“I only have about ten cameras to worry about in an average NFL game, “she said, when reached by phone Friday. “For this game we had between 50 and 60 manned and unmanned cameras, plus situations I had never been accustomed to.” Those situations included covering the national anthem before the game with the accompanying flyover, and working with producers like lead producer Jim Rikhoff, replay producer, Ryan Galvin, and technical director Mike Tiffee. “Over the years, of course I had known those guys,” she said, “but never had a chance to work with them on a game like this. And Mike Arnold was also incredibly helpful.”

Despite missing the production meeting with coaches and star players where game strategy is discussed, and not having ever worked with the crew, Suzanne Smith directed a flawless broadcast.

Suzanne Smith, CBS SportsIn doing so Suzanne Smith has become a role model for other women hoping to not only work in broadcast sports but also directing. “I’ve now directed an NFL championship game,” she said.  “I’ve done it! And I hope now, other women know they too can do it.”

And then she added the motto of many women in sports broadcasting: “If you can see her, you can be her.”

CBS Sports is lucky to have her. (Suzanne Smith served as Director of CBS’ AFC  Championship.)  

 

SUPER BOWL SCHEDULE AND TALENT

 

Sunday, February 13
6:30 PM- Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals 
NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya, Kathryn Tappen 
Rules AnalystTerry McAulay
Pre/Post Broadcast Team: 
Mike Tirico, Host
Maria Taylor, Host
Drew Brees, Analyst
Tony Dungy, Analyst
Rodney Harrison, Analyst
Chris Simms, Analyst
Mike Florio, Contributor 
Jac Collinsworth, Contributor
Peter King, Contributor
Steve Kornacki, Contributor
Michael Holley, Correspondent 
Michael Smith, Correspondent
Kit Hoover, Correspondent 
NFL Films World Feed: Kevin Burkhardt (Fox), Charles Davis (CBS)
ESPN International English: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters
NETWORK RADIO
Westwood One: 
Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Laura Okmin, Mike Golic
Rules Analyst: Gene Steratore 
Studio TeamJim Gray, Willie McGinist
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Rich Podolsky

Rich Podolsky, an established writer and reporter since the 70s, has been a staff writer for CBS and has written for ESPN, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Palm Beach Post, the Wilmington News Journal, College & Pro Football Newsweekly and TV Guide. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers' Keystone Award for writing excellence. A fan of music from the 60s and 70s, he is the author of "Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear," which relates how Kirshner discovered Bobby Darin, Carole King and Neil Sedaka among others, and "Neil Sedaka, Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor,” which tells the inside story of Sedaka’s comeback. His new book, “You Are Looking Live!” is about CBS’ revolutionary pregame show in 1975 which introduced Brent, Phyllis, Irv and The Greek to America.

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Michael Green
3 months ago

What a wonderful story and what a great talent Suzanne Smith is.

I’m sad to see Bob Fishman retire. I grew up seeing his name go by in the NFL Today credits. If I’m correct, I recall a great bit of directing advice he gave. He did the Belmont Stakes for CBS and I THINK he said that he used only one camera during the race itself because otherwise it changed your perspective on where the horses were. As another CBS great, Frank Chirkinian, said, simplicity is an art.