A hundred million people not fortunate enough to own a game ticket spent over three hours yesterday watching the telecast of America's biggest sports spectacle. Those watching the CBS pre-game show were treated to a study in absurdity.
In the middle of the winter the most important sports event of the year was held in one of the coldest cities in this country.
Why Detroit? Money. CBS spent over twenty minutes of its massive "Super Sunday" pregame show covering the financial aspects of the NFL's championship game.
The network aired an interview with an insider who admitted that the automotive industry's long history as one of pro football's leading sponsors played a role in Detroit's selection as the site of Super Bowl XVI.
So what was billed as America's premiere sporting event, dominating the covers of the nation's newsmagazines, was held in a city with a wind chill factor of 21 degrees below zero.
Money is the prime mover for the NFL, where the astroturf is clearly only the second most important green element. The Super Bowl provides the league with ten million dollars from gate receipts and the sale of broadcast rights.
Naturally, the network paying millions of dollars for broadcast rights milked the event for all it was worth--and more. CBS showed us the now-standard bar scenes with loyal football fans gathered around the television wearing Bengal baseball caps or 49er football shirts. Irv Cross told us how Super Bowl rings are made.
Brent Musberger hosted one of the silliest parts of the CBS pre-game, a simulation that pitted the play-calling abilities of Roger Staubach against those of Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw and Staubach were presented with various situations that could occur during the game and were asked to call defensive and offensive plays.
Staubach never called his own plays when he quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys, and neither player had any experience calling defensive signals. As a result the "video computer" always showed the offensive play working.
After all the experts had been heard from and the pre-game show had ended, another in a long tradition of less-than-thrilling Super Bowls took place.
Nine of the 27 top-rated programs in television history are Super Bowls, and when the ratings are in, number XVI is likely to take its place among the top money-making events ever.
Sometimes I wonder why.