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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Super Bowl 2021: Pregame shows feature a spectrum from COVID-19 to President Biden to players' families 

A general view of Raymond James Stadium before

A general view of Raymond James Stadium before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. Credit: Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann

It did not take long on Sunday for CBS to get to the theme of the day, and of the 2020 NFL season.

"After a season full of uncertainty, folks, we have made it to Super Bowl Sunday," host James Brown said to open the four-hour pregame show.

Soon one of CBS’ analysts, Nate Burleson, was echoing Brown, saying, "Now as a network, as a league, as a country, we get to collectively cross the finish line."

After that, it was on to the customary mishmash of brief features and time-eating chatter that marks all Super Bowl pregames, in which networks collect extra advertising and sponsorship dollars before kickoff.


A few minutes into the show, CBS addressed the biggest news development of the weekend.

Reporter Jason La Canfora spoke about the vehicular accident Thursday night in which Britt Reid, a Kansas City assistant coach and son of head coach Andy Reid, struck another vehicle and seriously injured a 5-year-old.

La Canfora reported the elder Reid is "distraught" and that Britt is hospitalized, but the analysts did not discuss the matter.

CBS returned to the topic at 4 p.m., with sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson further discussing Reid’s state of mind.

The most effective of the early features was one on Kansas City guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a starter in last year’s Super Bowl who took this season off to help care for COVID-19 patients in his native Canada.

The segment was introduced by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Later, CBS aired a segment that paid tribute to people playing roles on the front lines of the pandemic battle, from health-care workers to supermarket stockers to farmers to teachers and beyond.

That piece led into a warm and cuddly interview of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell by Brown, who lauded the league and its players for making it through the season despite the pandemic.

The highlight of CBS’ second hour was a piece on the 30th anniversary of Whitney Houston’s performance of the national anthem in Tampa, which had special meaning for Giants fans, who won Super Bowl XXV that night.

The lengthy pregame shows on CBS, NFL Network and ESPN sought a mix of light topics in addition to more serious fare.

On NFL Network, Kimberly Jones illustrated Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians’ "no risk it, no biscuit" mantra by jumping backward into a pool in Tampa.

On CBS, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, who are from the Bronx, sat on chairs on the field at MetLife Stadium to interview Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, who appeared on the stadium’s video board.

At 4:10, CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell interviewed President Joe Biden, who revealed he once dreamed of being an NFL "flanker back."

One of the better pregame interviews was of former Giant and current Buc Jason Pierre-Paul by Burleson.

Said JPP: "I ain’t gotta prepare for Patrick Mahomes. He’s gotta prepare for me, period."

The third hour’s most effective piece was "Before Jackie," narrated by actress Viola Davis, about the Rams’ signing of Kenny Washington in 1946 as the first post-war Black NFL player — before the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson.

Afterward, Brown spoke with emotion about the NFL’s lack of progress on hiring Black head coaches, saying, "Frankly, the track record is pitiful."

Burleson had the best line of the final hour. He recently worked with Noah Eagle on a Nickelodeon-produced wild-card playoff game and appeared pregame with Noah’s father, Ian.

"I feel like I’m in an episode of ‘Quantum Leap,’" Burleson said.

A couple of Burleson’s colleagues from that game, Nickelodeon personalities Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Lex Lumpkin, interviewed Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. It was more interesting than most pregame interviews with Super Bowl quarterbacks.

At 6 p.m., CBS’ opening tease for its "kickoff" show featured Jennifer Hudson singing "Stand By Me" over interviews of some of the top players’ family members, including former Mets pitcher Pat Mahomes.

New York Sports