NBC would absolutely love it if Super Bowl LII turned out as well as the last three it has televised.
In Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Pittsburgh defeated Arizona 27-23. In Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, the New York Giants beat New England 21-17. In Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, New England topped Seattle 28-24.
Three games, each decided by four points.
For those of us who remember the Super Bowls of the 1970s and ’80s, when nearly every game was decided by a blowout, this has been a welcome trend. And the ultimate was achieved in last year’s game, where the New England defeated Atlanta 34-28 in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.
With the Patriots once again playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis against the Philadelphia Eagles (and favored by 4½ points), NBC would be ecstatic if something similar happened this time around.
Play-by-play man Al Michaels, who will call his 10th Super Bowl, understands he has been blessed by his recent assignments.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said Tuesday in a call with reporters. “We had Arizona-Pittsburgh, which featured two of the most iconic plays in the history of the Super Bowl: James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return — and ironically, he will be in the game on Sunday — and Santonio Holmes’ catch in the end zone to win it. And then we did the Giants against the Patriots three years later and that game ended with [Tom] Brady launching one to the end zone for [Rob] Gronkowski that fell incomplete as the Giants beat them for the second time in four years. And the last time out we had the Seattle-New England game three years ago and that featured the Malcolm Butler interception at the end of that game to seal it, and he’s in the game [Sunday]. So we have Harrison and we have Butler, probably the two most iconic defensive plays in the history of the Super Bowl.”
Michaels had one of his bucket-list items taken away last year, so he’s replaced it with another.
“We always had hoped to do the first overtime Super Bowl, but the Patriots took care of that last year [with a 34-28 win over Atlanta], so the only thing I’m rooting for this year is triple overtime and the longest game in the history of football.”
HE HATE US
Speaking of rooting, network announcers never root for anything other than a good game and big ratings. No matter what you may think, they are not pulling for one team over another. It just doesn’t happen. No way, no how.
But some people just don’t believe that. Eagles fans on Sunday completely expect NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth to not only be pulling for the Patriots, but to be hating the Eagles.
“It’s probably the most asked question I get in every city,” Collinsworth said. “I know the Eagles fans think they’re unique by asking that question. I think the Patriots fans think they’re unique, the Cowboys fans think they’re unique. Even the Bengals fans think they’re unique [Collinsworth played eight years for Cincinnati] by asking me that question. I have probably heard that question, I’m going to guess, in my lifetime, about 1,500 times.
“Usually, I just give a traditional answer, you know: ‘It’s my job to critique the players and I really don’t hate these guys, blah, blah, blah,’ just go down the list. And then sometimes, if a guy is particularly obnoxious, I’ll just turn to him and go, ‘I don’t know. I just hate ’em.’ It’s a bizarre world. I think I spend 98% of my time saying glowing, nice things about people in a broadcast and yet I know there’s another 2% [where I say] ‘They stink.’
“I’ve had my son play college football. I’ve heard him be critiqued on the air and it’s no fun. And obviously with these two [Super Bowl] teams, they’re so good and they’ve come so far, they become a bit of the family for the neighborhood of the local team, but I really, honestly expect my next question to be why do I hate the Patriots so much?”
For NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, Super Bowl LII is a home game; she lives in Minneapolis (where the high for Sunday is expected to be 11 degrees and the low to be zero). Tafoya says that even though the hometown Vikings just missed playing, Minnesota is still ready to be a gracious host.
“It’s neat having the Super Bowl in your hometown,” said Tafoya, who grew up in California and has lived in Minnesota since 1994. “… I can tell you that the state and the cities have been preparing for it since they’ve known it was going to be here. There was all kinds of Minnesota nice and Minnesota excitement. They love the winter here in Minnesota. They embrace everything about it and so there’s a lot of fun going on around town. Even though the Vikings came really close and it’s been a major disappointment, I think still the fans here are ready to embrace the game as it stands.”
There are critics who think sideline reporters are a waste of time, that nothing good ever comes from them. But Tafoya may well be the absolute best of all.
“There’s nobody better than Michele,” Michaels said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with her in basketball as well with the NBA [on ABC] about 14 years ago. You can always count on her and sometimes she’s in a very difficult spot. I know we were doing a game in Houston about four years ago. Gary Kubiak was the [Texans] coach and he suffered what appeared to be a heart attack and collapsed on the sideline. And there was Michele right there. I mean, that’s as tough as it gets, to get the information in the craziness going on all around you.
“… I’ve also watched her in a situation where a player’s brother had died earlier that day in a motorcycle accident and able to do it both journalistically and with a great deal of compassion. No matter what the situation is, she is up to it. She has never missed a beat.”
Tafoya and her husband Mark Vandersall have two children and she says she is pulling double duty this week as reporter and as mom.
“It kind of cuts both ways,” she said. “It’s a luxury in that I get to spend extra time at home and that is a premium to all of us who are on the road all season long. We miss a lot of stuff. … I have a hired assistant. His name is Mark Vandersall; I married him about 17 years ago. He has always held down the fort when I have to go to work. This week is no different in that regard, but we are going to try to enjoy it, too.”