The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of sports broadcasts. Everything about the spectacle is enormous, and spectators have come to expect that enormity along with everything that goes with it. Less than three per cent of Americans claim to be fans of the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers, and yet more than ten times that percentage of the United States watched last night’s game. It’s a sporting event that goes beyond the classification of a mere distraction and enters into the realm of cultural significance.

A successful broadcast of such a happening is a fake wizard that doesn’t get noticed. An unsuccessful exhibition of the spectacle will keep Toto barking for hours. Unfortunately for CBS, it didn’t take a yappy dog for tens of millions of viewers  to be made painfully aware of the machinations of the television broadcast throughout the network’s six hours of coverage.

This included parts that were out of the network’s control, like a power outage at the stadium in the third quarter, that was handled admittedly not terribly by sideline reporters, turned Super Bowl XLVII hosts, Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots. However, it also included a single element that was entirely within the network’s control: Phil Simms.

His shambolic analysis was atrocious to the point that even the most casual of Super Bowl  onlookers mocked his meaningless  utterance of platitudes and cliches. On the rare occasions in which the former Super Bowl winning quarterback actually took a stance on an issue, his opinion was disproved by a replay.

This was most evident during a controversial play that ended San Francisco’s final unsuccessful drive of the game. Trailing by five points with less than two minutes remaining, the 49ers found themselves on Baltimore’s five-yard line in a fourth and goal situation. With their final chance, quarterback Colin Kaepernick attempted to find Michael Crabtree in the corner of the endzone with a rainbow pass, but it fell incomplete after Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith held on to the receiver with both of his hands.

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh, animated throughout most of the game, went ballistic, wildly gesturing to imply that a holding call should have been made. Simms said that he liked the “no-call” by the officials, citing a rule which allows contact between receivers and defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage. When play-by-play co-host Jim Nantz pointed out that contact occurred at least two yards into the endzone, and therefore more than seven yards from the line, Simms stuck to his statement without an explanation.

Only after countless replays showed illegal pass coverage, Simms relented, kind of:

The more angles I see, the more confused I get.

His admission to confusion was redundant to anyone who had witnessed the majority of the broadcast to that point.

After Baltimore had run down as much of the clock as was possible, they faced a fourth down situation of their own. Nantz, whose adequate efforts shone as something brighter only in comparison to his broadcast partner’s inabilities, asked his analyst if the Ravens might consider taking a safety, with the loss of two points being a fair trade-in for valuable seconds being taken off of the clock and presumably worse field position for San Francisco.

Simms replied:

No, I would not. I would punt it.

Baltimore then called a time out.

Let’s think about it, you bring up a great point. You take a safety, 34-31, you punt the football . . .

Yes, these are the things that a safety entails. However, after thinking out loud in the broadcast booth, Simms concluded that he would indeed still just punt the ball. Then, to the surprise of few, Baltimore wasted five additional seconds as their punter took the safety.

It was a rough go for Simms, but at least a very audible obscenity from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco after winning the Super Bowl MVP award will be largely considered to be the most offensive utterance of the broadcast, and not his meandering nonsense, and horribly wrong insights.

Your Super Bowl Commercial Of The Super Bowl

There are very few instances in which you don’t mind being manipulated. In that sense, this Budweiser spot was the formulaic summer blockbuster movie of Super Bowl advertisements.

Over the last decade, a 30-second spot has increased in cost by more than 60 per cent to $3.5 million last year. The Clydesdale Brotherhood commercial was one of fifteen commercials lasting 60-seconds or more. For more of Sunday night’s commercials, 100 Yards & Running has an extensive catalogue.

The Dumb Thing That Don Cherry Said

Sure. The celebration of small and largely useless players because of their scrappy style of play is made much more palatable by Don Cherry using it to encourage undersized youngsters to continue the pursuit of a dream.

However, any good will that Cherry created was lost when he once again imitated the voice an opposing view by affecting a more feminine tone. Then, he reached into his bag of uninteresting cliches to offer this:

Know why they don’t understand? Because they don’t understand. They never played the game. This is an honor game. This is a code of hockey players who are the greatest people in the world.

Cherry goes on to compare the sport to war with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, all while reminding us, in his praise of hockey players as some sort of philosopher gladiators, of that pro wrestling fan who embarrassingly thanked the athletes for their dedication to the craft.

X-Games Death

Caleb Moore died in a Colorado hospital from medical complications affecting his brain on Thursday after crashing during a freestyle snowmobiling competition as part of the Winter X Games.

The death has raised many questions about the event as a whole. There isn’t anything quite like the X Games, in terms of its appeal being so largely based on the risk that something tragic could happen. ESPN, who produces and broadcasts the games, has benefitted from athletes putting themselves in harm’s way to create a spectacle. The games have become a major success, with viewership records being broken annually. This year’s winter competition drew 35.4 million viewers, while numbers in the key male aged 18-34 demographic was up 16%. Plans had been in the works to take a more Olympic-style approach to the games, holding events at sites around the world with a formal bidding process for cities hoping to host.

There’s no telling how this tragedy will affect those plans. However, in my mind, if ESPN is to maintain that its not exploiting the relatively young participants. there’s an implicit responsibility on the network’s behalf to protect its athletes. Steps have to be taken, in the form of imposed restrictions, in order to do this. While caution might seem potentially damaging to a brand dependent on death-defying acts, I’m reminded of the technical skills on display during NASCAR races in which restrictor plates are used. Perhaps that example could encourage ESPN to look into methods of maintaining the integrity of the competition while offering better protection.