Kevin Burkhardt did not wait long to address the elephant in the broadcast booth.
It was about 40 minutes before kickoff for Super Bowl LVII on Sunday night, and Burkhardt and his Fox partner, Greg Olsen, had just come on the air.
Olsen was talking about the challenge players in Super Bowls face because of the disruption to their routines, to which Burkhardt said this:
“It’s kind of like the first time broadcasting a Super Bowl. The routines are all gone. That’s kind of how we feel, too, by the way.”
Yup. For the first time since 2005, a network dared to trot out both a play-by-play man and analyst who had never worked a Super Bowl on network TV.
Many viewers — including many New York-area folks who warmly remember Burkhardt from his days at WFAN and SNY — were rooting for the new guys.
Not to worry. It was evident from the start that they were comfortable under the bright lights and not overwhelmed by the moment, which was half the battle.
They began strong and finished stronger as Kansas City fashioned a 38-35 victory over the Eagles that was full of drama and controversy.
In that kind of game, announcers are judged by what they do in the deciding moments, and Burkhardt and Olsen were unafraid of the situation.
Olsen was all over the frantic final two minutes, starting with pointing out that Kansas City would need to give itself up if it got a first down in order to run the clock.
That was with 1:54 left, when Kansas City had a third-and-8 at the Philadelphia 15-yard line with the score tied at 35.
Then the world changed.
Former Giants cornerback James Bradberry was called for holding receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and suddenly Kansas City had a first down that led to the winning field goal with eight seconds left.
While rules analyst Mike Pereira hesitated to criticize the penalty until he saw more replays, Olsen several times questioned making what appeared to be a nitpicky call in that spot.
“Oh, man, that is a game-altering penalty,” Olsen said, later adding, “It changes the entire complexion of how this classic game’s going to end.”
Burkhardt said, “Boy, that’s a tough way to finish what’s been a classic.”
Bradberry himself said: “It was a holding. I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they would let it slide.”
The penalty sucked the air out of what had been an exciting second half that was set up for a dramatic finish.
But the fact that the two newbie Super Bowl announcers were willing to offer a sharp opinion in a pivotal moment was telling.
Burkhardt is a comfortable, likable figure who does not call attention to himself, but he can dial up the intensity when necessary.
His call of Kansas City’s Nick Bolton returning Jalen Hurts’ fumble for a second-quarter touchdown was top-notch.
Olsen sometimes can be wordy and jargon-heavy, but for a guy in his second year in the business, he has excelled.
The fact that he played as recently as 2020 gives him an edge over some of his fellow NFL analysts at the network level.
Fox’s announcers and analysts were not afraid to note a problem with the field being slippery. Tom Rinaldi offered a detailed report on that after the halftime show.
When Kadarius Toney scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and followed it with the longest punt return in Super Bowl history, Fox should have detailed the circumstances of his exile by the Giants earlier this season.
Fox’s pregame show clocked in at a tidy 330 minutes and featured the usual array of time-eating content, led by the network’s familiar studio team.
Former Giants star Michael Strahan showed his crossover chops by interviewing both halftime performer Rihanna and Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
It was billed as Hamlin’s first one-on-one interview since he suffered cardiac arrest during a game against the Bengals on Jan. 2.
When Strahan asked Hamlin if he recalls standing up before collapsing, there was a long pause.
Then Hamlin said, “That’s something I don’t really want to get too deep into the details of. That’s something I’m still trying to work through: Why’d it happen to me?”