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CBS exults in game's return after 9-year hiatus


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001

TAMPA -- So what if ratings for CBS' pregame show dropped 10 percent this season, and the overnight ratings for the AFC and NFC championship games hit an all-time low? So what if CBS Sports president Sean McManus is hoping the postgame premiere of Survivor: The Australian Outback will boost today's game, when usually it works the other way around?

McManus is smiling anyway. After nine years, the Super Bowl is back on CBS.

"It's the biggest day not just in American sports, but the biggest day in American television," he said.

That fact is undisputed. Even though much of the viewing public may consider a Ravens-Giants matchup boring, odds are the rating won't drop below 40, which it hasn't since 1990. (A rating point represents one percent of the households with televisions.) That still would place it among the 60 top-rated programs of all time.

Once lampooned as "CBS Sport" after Fox stunned the network by snagging the rights to NFC games in 1993, CBS got back in the game three years ago when it secured rights to AFC broadcasts.

Much has changed since that last Super Bowl telecast in 1992. For one, 30-second ads now are going for an average of $2.3-million (and the network sold them all).

Technology is even more mind-boggling. CBS is helping advance it with EyeVision, an instant replay system that provides views of about 270 degrees on a given play. It will debut in today's game. Also, for the second time, there will be a separate broadcast of the game in HDTV.

Analyst Phil Simms, who led the Giants to two Super Bowls, said the game has changed so much that even if he wanted to, it would be hard to spend Super Bowl week reliving his playing career.

"So much time has passed," said Simms, who this month received a five-year contract extension and reportedly will earn nearly $2.5-million a year. "Nowadays, two years is forever. Ten years is like five lifetimes. It's an exciting time. The Super Bowl is over the edge in attention."

WORTH WATCHING: Bucs fans should tune in to the pregame show, The Super Bowl Today, for reporter Armen Keteyian's feature on life as an NFL player. Tampa Bay's John Lynch was one of four players Keteyian and CBS cameras followed throughout the season. While CBS' The Early Show talked with Linda Lynch for a piece Friday about being an NFL wife, "this was more focused on the physical challenges that NFL players face," John Lynch said. "Waking up the next day after a game and how you feel. They were real happy when I dislocated my shoulder. ... But they handled it with great class, and it turned out to be a good experience."

Also, Dick Enberg returns to the Super Bowl, but not in the broadcast booth. The veteran play-by-play man, who has called eight Super Bowls since 1981, moved from NBC to CBS a year ago, after Simms and Greg Gumbel already were in place as the No. 1 team. As part of Super Bowl Today's look back at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Enberg talks with former Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler, whose son Tyler nearly died in an all-terrain vehicle accident 18 months ago.

FINE TUNING: For the second straight year, Bucs kicker and Pro Bowler Martin Gramatica will provide analysis for ESPN International's Spanish-language broadcast. ... ESPN finally has received permission from the Ravens to air its tape of Ray Lewis' emotional speech to his new teammates at the opening of training camp. The segment will air on today's Sunday NFL Countdown at 11 a.m.

-- Staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

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