Patty Power first worked a Super Bowl six years ago, the one in which the lights went out in the third quarter at the Superdome, delaying play between the Ravens and 49ers for 34 minutes.
For someone who works in television operations, it was the stuff of pregame nightmares.
“When the lights go out, the most common thing is, ‘What did you guys do?’” Power said. “We didn’t do anything. It was the stadium this time, thank God.”
Such is life for those charged with setting up the infrastructure that supports the announcers and images for the big game. But the upcoming big game is the biggest yet for Power.
She was named CBS Sports’ executive vice president of operations and engineering in 2016, shortly after its most recent Super Bowl. So Super Bowl LIII will be her first with “buck stops here” authority over the entire operation.
“If I think of that too much, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, the Super Bowl!’” she said. “But I have a really good team and I’ve got good people in place. So I feel really good about it.”
Power, 54, came by her interest in and knowledge of sports like many in the industry: via a Long Island childhood.
She grew up in a sports-oriented family of five girls and one boy and graduated from West Babylon High School and Farmingdale State College.
An older sister, Margie, worked at NBC Sports and got her a temporary job there, which led to gigs at Showtime, Classic Sports Network (now ESPN Classic), MLB Productions, CSTV and CBS Sports Network, all in technical operations.
It was a career path she could not have envisioned. But who does?
“I don’t think anybody goes to school, let’s be honest, and says, ‘I want to get into operations,’ because most people don’t know what it is,” Power said. “They think production. But the other side of production is the operations piece that supports production.
“That is probably one of the most challenging things to recruit people, because they’re like, ‘What do you do? How’d you get into that?’ ”
Power is the rare woman in a position of such authority on the technical side of sports television, something that she does not dwell on but hopes illustrates possibilities.
“It certainly creates opportunity for people to realize, hey, you can keep going,” she said. “You work hard enough, there is an opportunity for you . . . Women here in sports are really supported and encouraged and mentored in a good, positive way. I guess that’s why I don’t really dwell on it. It’s sort of the natural environment I’m in.”
Two other women from Long Island will oversee elements of CBS’ Super Bowl coverage: Jen Sabatelle, senior VP of communications, is from Shoreham, and Kelly Dunne, executive VP of marketing, is from Huntington.
And Power is not alone among women in sports television operations. Her former NBC colleague, Susan Stone, is MLB Network’s senior VP of operations and engineering.
“It’s starting to happen,” Power said. “It’s nice to have that support and be able to identify with someone else.”
Power succeeded Ken Aagaard, a Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer, whom she credited as an invaluable resource. But now, she is fully in charge.
What is involved? “It’s essentially like moving an army,” she said. “It’s all of the technical planning that goes into producing the event, getting all of the crews there, housing, travel, credentials, catering, getting the signal out, postproduction. So it’s really all the nuts-and-bolts to give production the tools to tell their story for the viewers.
CBS will send “north of 500 people” to Atlanta, she said. Production trucks were scheduled to leave Kansas City after Sunday’s AFC Championship Game and head southeast.
Power planned a quick stop at her home in Garden City before arriving in Atlanta on Wednesday. “We’re all starting to feel it,” she said. “The good part is we’re ready. We are ready for this game. I have a lot of confidence in the folks here . . . It’s exciting. It’s rewarding. It’s all the years you put into your career, and you’re at the Super Bowl.”
Still, operations people are like game officials: They only are noticed by the public when something goes wrong. No one wants the lights to go out. And if they do, no one wants it to be his or her fault.
Even though she initially did not think CBS had anything to do with what happened six years ago, she said the natural first reaction was, “Did we cause this?”
“But talk about belts and suspenders and crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s, we’re doing it all to make sure that does not happen,” she said. “No one wants to be in that situation, obviously.”