Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Phil Simms was introduced before Super Bowl 50 along with other living former Super Bowl MVPs, in recognition of his heroics as the Giants quarterback 29 years earlier.
Then most of his fellow honorees got to sit back and enjoy the game — Broncos GM John Elway more than most.
Not so for Simms, who had work to do in the CBS booth for his eighth Super Bowl as a TV analyst, second only to John Madden’s 11. But this one was a little different from the others.StoryBroncos smother Panthers, win Super Bowl 50
Simms had received some negative reviews in 2013 for his work in Super Bowl XLVII, and during this regular season got frequent criticism on social media — some of it deserved, as at times he seemed off his game.
So even beyond the usual 100-million-plus sets of eyes on him as a Super Bowl analyst Sunday night, there was added scrutiny of one of the sport’s most visible media figures.
How did it go? Mostly well, certainly better than three years ago and never more so than during the sequence that essentially clinched the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Panthers Sunday night.
In the waning minutes, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller stripped regular-season MVP Cam Newton for the second time, after which CBS replays caught Newton inexplicably backing away from an attempt to recover the ball.
Simms and play-by-play man Jim Nantz properly questioned what Newton possibly could have been thinking.
CBS wasn’t perfect, far from it, because these things never are, but mostly the network in general and Simms in particular were on point in guiding viewers through a very sloppy, less-than-scintillating game.
It began with the first drive of the game, with Simms analyzing how the Broncos were handling the Panthers’ blitzes.
Simms also did a nice job on the pivotal Miller strip sack of Newton that resulted in the first touchdown of the night. CBS later used its EyeVision 360 camera system to cover the play from every angle.
Simms supported Panthers coach Ron Rivera using his second and final challenge four minutes into the second quarter, a debatable position, but at least he had an opinion.
Later he made a peculiar remark about Newton throwing the ball too hard for Ted Ginn to catch it on an interception.
Oft-criticized officiating analyst Mike Carey was wrong, as he often is, in anticipating whether a Carolina challenge of a ruling on an incomplete pass to Jerricho Cotchery would be overturned.
Only this time, it appeared he should have been right on a pivotal play that preceded the Broncos’ first touchdown. But the game officials disagreed.
Sideline reporters Tracy Wolfson and Evan Washburn weighed in with useful information about both teams struggling to find proper footwear for slippery field conditions.
Kicking analyst Jay Feely made an appearance to discuss Graham Gano’s missed field goal attempt off the right upright for Carolina, and was helpful, as he usually is.
There were times CBS was remiss in showing fewer replays than it should have, and there was a mighty awkward final second when we did not get to see what presumably was Carolina’s final snap.
CBS’ open for the telecast was a gem, produced and directed by Pete Radovich Jr., who all season produced the opens for CBS and the NFL Network on “Thursday Night Football.”
It began with an eclectic assortment of celebrities — including a dabbing Betty White — discussing Super Bowl memories and morphed into athletes themselves doing the talking.
The four-hour pregame show, like all Super Bowl pregames, mostly stuck to the genre’s predictable formula while fulfilling its primary purpose: plucking loose ad revenue change from between the sofa cushions before kickoff.
One highlight was a heartfelt segment on the six living play-by-play men who have called Super Bowls — in which CBS bravely acknowledged the existence of other networks’ voices. Afterward Nantz paid personal tribute to announcers of the past, in keeping with the day’s overarching theme of honoring history while making some new history, too.
Manning and the Broncos saw to that.