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Super Bowl LIII: CBS' endless pregame show has more than a few highlights

The show featured a strong segment on the civil rights movement in Atlanta, the hometown of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and also showed a light touch with a piece on Joe Namath and the Jets' Super Bowl III upset. 

Fans gather outside the stadium prior to Super

Fans gather outside the stadium prior to Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Streeter Lecka

CBS did its job during the many hours of the Super Bowl LIII pregame show on Sunday, that job being to fill the many hours of the Super Bowl LIII pregame show.

The networks that carry the game generally do not seek to reinvent the wheel during the day but rather focus on plucking some sponsorship and advertising coins from between the sofa cushions while awaiting kickoff, where the big advertising bucks are.

Not that there weren’t some highlights on the show, which officially ran from 2 to 6 p.m.

(It was preceded at 1 p.m. by “Tony Romo Goes to the Super Bowl,” during which the CBS analyst introduced his son to Ray Lewis, whom he called “the best linebacker in the history of the NFL.” Which he is not. Lawrence Taylor is. But I digress.)

CBS was particularly proud of a segment on Atlanta’s past and present role in the civil rights movement. It began with a piece narrated by Hank Aaron and later included interviews with John Lewis and Andrew Young,.

At the close of the segment, host James Brown said, “I would pray that we be a nation that’s too busy to hate while still acknowledging there are still forces which need to be overcome, but consistent with the truth upon which Dr. [Martin Luther] King helped build the civil rights movement. Three timeless tenets will endure. Faith, hope and the most powerful one, love, which ultimately conquers all.”

That segment was followed by another effective but much lighter one, in which CBS cameras followed the family of Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth in the week leading up to the game.

New York fans had a particular interest in an earlier feature celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III. It was a stylized segment hosted by comedian J.B. Smoove that included a re-creation of Namath’s appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” after the Jets’ win.

The script laid it on a little too thickly in crediting Namath with the Super Bowl phenomenon itself – “He is the reason we are all celebrating today” – but Namath set the record straight when he appeared on set in the flesh.

“Hey, we know it was us, buddy,” Namath said, “and I treasure that and I was just glad to be a part of it.”

Earlier in the 3 p.m. hour, CBS got a cursory interview with commissioner Roger Goodell that did not delve into any substantive issues – including the fallout from the officiating error that marred the NFC Championship Game.

Then the network inserted a brief clip of an extensive “Face the Nation” interview conducted Friday with President Donald Trump, in which Trump predicted the Patriots would win and said it was a “shame” that the Saints were damaged by that no-call against the Rams two weeks earlier.

CBS News provided the clip to the sports division. It was a small part of a nearly 90-minute sitdown. During the interview, according to a CBS transcript, Trump admitted he would have a “hard time” with his young son, Barron, playing football because of the dangers involved.

Trump sat with Fox for a Super Bowl interview two years ago but did not do so with NBC last year.

As is customary, CBS saved the biggest names for the final hour as the audience grew with kickoff nearing. That included an interview with investor Warren Buffett about his friend, the Rams’ Ndamukong Suh.

Another big gun, Magic Johnson, came out at the top of the 5 o’clock hour, narrating a piece on the Boston vs. Los Angeles sports rivalry.

Phil Simms and Bill Cowher interviewed Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was unusually relaxed and jokingly told his interviewers he should have paid them for the privilege.

Then Nate Burleson interviewed Rams coach Sean McVay and Romo interviewed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who praised Romo for his ability to anticipate play calls during the AFC Championship Game

“Those were pretty good,” Brady said, smiling.

The open to the game telecast at 6 p.m. featured a comic segment in which Peyton Manning made an over-the-top pitch to CBS executives to produce the open, and actor John Malkovich appears from the Roman Colosseum.

Then, finally . . . game time.

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