TODAY'S PAPER

Super Bowl LII kickoff time and TV information

Ice sculptures are set up on the Nicollet Mall on Jan. 24, 2018 in Minneapolis in preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl. / AP / Jim Mone

Super Bowl LII -- that's Super Bowl 52 for those of you who don't remember your Roman numerals lessons in elementary school -- will be played on Feb. 4, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kickoff between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots is set for approximately 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

SUPER BOWL MUSIC

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Carrie Underwood’s recently released hit song, “The Champion,” a catchy amalgamation of sports clichés that also features Ludacris, will open NBC’s Super Bowl broadcast at 6 p.m.

Underwood was a logical choice for the gig, given her show-opening role for the past five seasons on “Sunday Night Football,” even if her preference as championships go would be a Stanley Cup for the Nashville Predators.

Her husband, Mike Fisher, recently announced he was coming out of retirement to rejoin the team, which reached the Cup Final last season before losing to the Penguins.

Justin Timberlake will perform in his third Super Bowl halftime show, and revealed in a Thursday news conference that one of the songs in his set will be “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

Timberlake spoke of his relationship with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, saying he texted him before the AFC Championship Game and wrote, “I’m going to the Super Bowl. Are you going to the Super Bowl?”

Brady is, just as he did 14 years ago, when Timberlake performed with Janet Jackson in Houston and caused the “wardrobe malfunction” seen around the world.

Now he is back, and has promised there will be no repeats of that incident.

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“We’re going to take it seriously that we want everyone to have a ton of fun,” he said.

Pink will sing the national anthem.

SUPER BOWL OFFICIALS

Referee Gene Steratore will lead the seven-person crew of on-field game officials working the Super Bowl. The other members of the officiating crew are Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge).

COLLINSWORTH AND THE PATRIOTS

Cris Collinsworth will work his fourth Super Bowl as a game analyst after playing in two for the Bengals. His first, for Fox 13 years ago, featured . . . the Eagles against the Patriots!

In fact, the Patriots have appeared in all four of Collinsworth’s Super Bowls as an analyst. “An amazing organization continues this amazing run,” he said.

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How would he compare this game to Super Bowl XXXIX? “The Pats look the same, the Eagles very different.”

Al Michaels is working his 10th Super Bowl, sideline reporter Michele Tafoya her fourth and producer and director Fred Gaudelli and Drew Esocoff their sixth together.

NBC BY THE NUMBERS

Al Michaels is set to call his 10th Super Bowl, second only to Pat Summerall’s 11 as a play-by-play man for the big game.

That is a large number, but not as large as some of the others NBC provided to illustrate the magnitude of its operation. Among them: The Peacocks will deploy more than 500 employees, 130 microphones, 106 cameras – 20 pylon cameras alone! – 50 miles of cable, 14 mobile units and two SkyCams, a Super Bowl first.

NBC personnel will use 700 hotel rooms over two weeks and eat 1,500 meals on game day.
 

SUPER BOWL PREGAME COVERAGE

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will contribute to NBC’s coverage of both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, because . . . well, because he is Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for 15 years in a row.

Junior will appear on NBC’s pregame, where a news release promised he would “share his great sense of adventure, as he takes part in some of the outdoor events and activities taking place in town leading up to kickoff.”

Later in the month, he will be in Pyeongchang to explore the world of short track speed skating, whose tight turns NBC says “so closely mirror Earnhardt’s racing days and nights at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

“I’m looking forward to raising the profile of NASCAR, and all that we’re going to be doing during the 2018 season,” said Earnhardt, who will work as a stock car racing analyst on NBC.

There only is so much a TV executive or host can do with the Super Bowl pregame show genre. It is what it is: a vehicle to pick up some loose advertising change and do obvious features while filling the many hours before kickoff.

Not that they don’t try to adapt to time and circumstance. For example, on Sunday, pregame co-host Dan Patrick will begin his day at Nicollet Mall in a studio set atop a snow hill.

“That snow hill is going to enable us to be a part of the entire Minnesota scene,” producer Sam Flood said. “We’ve got skijoring, which is dogs pulling people on skis. We’ve got fat tire bikes. We’ve got tubing. We’ve got a snowcat. We’ve got ice fishing. You name it, we have it. We’re engaged in the place.”

Said Patrick, “I think going to Sochi [in 2014] was supposed to get me toughened up for this, but Sochi turned out to be about 60 degrees when we got there, so that didn’t work. But I’m ready to go. I’ve got my hand warmers, my hat. I’m ready for battle.”

As kickoff draws nearer, the pregame fare will become more serious and football-oriented, aided by guest analyst John Harbaugh, the Ravens’ head coach.

President Donald Trump declined an invitation to participate in the customary pregame interview. He did so on Fox last year.

SUPER BOWL ON THE RADIO AND STREAMING

Some people are unable to be near a television or a device on which they can stream NBC’s coverage. Hence, the Super Bowl’s radio partner, Westwood One, for which Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason will work the game broadcast.

While the television rights rotate among three networks, Westwood One has been a fixture on the radio side, carrying the game for the 31st year in a row and 45th time overall. WFAN will air its coverage in New York.

Esiason, who grew up in East Islip, will work his 18th Super Bowl for Westwood One and 19th overall, more than any other analyst on national radio and/or television.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app will livestream the game.

SUPER BOWL FOOD

Forty percent of Americans’ favorite Super Bowl Sunday food is chicken wings, according to Burston-Marsteller’s fifth annual Super Bowl Survey, followed by 33 percent who named pizza, 17 percent nachos and nine percent chips.

And those people seem to prefer eating their wings in the presence of familiar faces.
The survey showed 62 percent of people most want to watch the game on television in a private home with family and friends, 30 would like to be there in person and seven would opt for watching on TV in a public place.

SUPER BOWL PROP BETS

What’s the fun in just betting who will win or lose the Super Bowl? The big game is famous for the plethora of funky proposition bets it inspires.

Courtesy of Bovada, an off-shore book, here are the odds for some Super Bowl LII gems:

How long will it take Pink to sing the national anthem? Over two minutes, 2/3. Under two minutes, 11/10.

What predominant color will Pink’s hair be when she sings the anthem? White/blonde, 5/4. Pink/red, 7/4. Blue/purple, 5/1. Brown/black, 5/1. Green, 5/1.

What predominant color will Bill Belichck’s shirt be at kickoff? Blue, 4/5. Grey, 3/2. Red, 15/2. White, 15/2.

How many times will Patriots owner Robert Kraft be shown on TV during the game, not counting halftime? Over 2 ½, 1/2. Under 2 ½, 3/2.

How many times will Tom Brady’s wife, Giselle Bundchen, be shown on TV? Over 1 ½, even. Under 1 ½, 5/7.

Will NBC’s Al Michaels refer to the point spread during the game? Yes, 11/10. No, 2/3.

What color will Justin Timberlake’s shoes be when he begins the halftime show? White, 4/5. Black, 7/4. Brown/beige, 7/1. Blue, 10/1. Green, 10/1. Red, 16/1. Yellow, 20/1.

What will be greater, total sacks in Super Bowl or total goals in Golden Knights vs. Capitals game? Super Bowl sacks, 7/5. Hockey goals, 5/9.
 

CATS AND DOGS

Animal Planet will televise the 14th Puppy Bowl, meaning the stars of the first edition now are . . . um, let’s just say that they are getting on in years.

This year’s wrinkle is a marketing partnership with Tinder by which folks can swipe right on puppy profiles if they wish to donate to the ASPCA.

Fear not, cat people: Kitten Bowl V will air on the Hallmark Channel.

AFTER THE SUPER BOWL

 NBC has given its hit show, "This Is Us," the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot, for what promises to be an emotional episode involving the expected death of a major character.

The episode is set on the night of Super Bowl XXXII in 1998.

But fans should heed the warning NBC has been giving to add extra time to their DVRs. "This Is Us" is scheduled to begin at 10:15 p.m., an optimistic goal, especially if the game runs long.

To be safe, add an extra hour to your recording time. And check the wiring on your crock pot.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon will follow live from Minneapolis.