Super Bowl assignment is 'challenging project' for Fox Sports
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It was one month, almost to the hour, before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII, a snowstorm was barreling toward New York and Jerry Steinberg was back in his hometown, loving everything about his biggest, boldest assignment yet.
"This whole place, that's my DNA," he said Thursday, "and it's as exciting and challenging a project as I have ever been involved in."
That is saying a lot for Fox Sports' senior VP of field operations and engineering, who at 71 has seen and done it all in a long, varied sports TV career.
But this is special. For one thing, it's New York, where Steinberg grew up eight blocks from Yankee Stadium and -- although he has lived in California since the late 1990s -- only recently gave up his Greenwich Village apartment.
For another, there is the threat of cold weather that has hung over the event since it was awarded to the metropolitan area in 2010.
Bottom line: There is a lot to do. So while the NFL took advantage of the local teams' playoff-free January to start work around MetLife Stadium on Thursday, Steinberg and his Fox colleagues also were deep into the planning process.
Actually, they have been for a long time. Steinberg said Super Bowl preparation usually starts a year ahead of time. This one took two years, in part because of the complexities of dealing with two states and one big, complicated city.
On Friday he was scheduled to visit Newburgh, where the Times Square set from which Fox Sports 1 will broadcast in the days leading up to the game has been assembled from the ground up.
Why not just build it on site rather than constructing it, then taking it apart and reconstructing it?
"I didn't want to see it built for the first time in Times Square," Steinberg said. "I'd be walking around with paddles on my chest if that was the deal."
The last time Steinberg saw the set, the glass that will enclose it had not been installed. Now it has, just in time for a severe weather test Friday.
When Fox loads it all up Jan. 17 and reconstructs it in time for rehearsals a week later, passersby in Duffy Square will see a 44-foot-high, 40-foot-long, 40-foot-wide, 8,100-square-foot structure with a set on the second floor and an open-air top floor featuring a mock football field.
Oh, and a 16-foot-tall animated Cleatus robot with glowing eyes.
Why so extravagant? "Listen, it's New York," Steinberg said. "When you come here, you make a splash, and when you bring it, you bring it big . . . We're bringing Fox Sports 1 to Times Square. It doesn't get any bigger than that."
On game day, Fox will begin its pregame on the Manhattan set, then shift to another climate-controlled one in the stadium. It will separate into two pieces to be pushed aside when not in use and can be wheeled back together during a commercial break.
Televising the game itself might be the most straightforward part of Super Bowl week. Fox's team is accustomed to cold weather, including the Giants' victory in Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game six years ago.
"That's the coldest I've ever been in my life, and it was one of the great games ever," Steinberg said. "The crew guys, that's what they do. They're crew guys."
He said that although the pregame coverage is of a different magnitude than any other Sunday, "at 6 o'clock, it's a football game with maybe 20 more cameras than you had two weeks before."
Fox personnel will begin running cable around the 20th, the day after the NFC Championship Game, and the staff will grow as that week goes by.
Like the NFL, Steinberg would be happy to see it snow, in part because it likely would increase an already massive TV audience. Most of all, he wants the New York area to shine.
"As a guy from here, it's great," he said. "We'll take a lot of pride in what happens here Feb. 2 and that entire week."