On one hand, CBS will bring something new to Super Bowl LIII, with Tony Romo becoming the first game analyst to make his Super Bowl debut since Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth did it for Fox 14 years ago.
On the other hand, there is no more familiar network for the game to be on. This will be CBS’ 20th Super Bowl broadcast, the most of any network.
Jim Nantz will call his fifth, and he hosted coverage of two others for CBS. (Jim Rikhoff will produce his first Super Bowl, and Mike Arnold will direct his fourth.)
Romo will host a special called “Tony Goes to the Super Bowl” at 1 p.m. in which he looks back at his first season on the job, then CBS will begin its official pregame show at 2 p.m., in keeping with recent network starting times. James Brown will host his ninth Super Bowl pregame show, having worked for both Fox and CBS.
Among the many pregame features before the 6:30 p.m. kickoff will be one on the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ victory on Super Bowl III, including an interview with Joe Namath. Edited portions of a recorded CBS News interview with President Donald Trump will air during the pregame.
Following the game, Nantz will host the Lombardi Trophy presentation, after which CBS will go to the premiere of a reality show called “The World’s Best” in the coveted post-Super Bowl programming slot.
The radio broadcast will be on Westwood One, which in the New York metro area can be heard on WFAN 101.9 FM and 660 AM.
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES
Tony Romo retired after the 2016 season, thus missing an era in which the NFL greatly relaxed rules regarding end zone celebrations. In 2018, choreographed celebrations, including mock team photos, extended beyond touchdowns to include interceptions and other big plays.
When asked recently whether such antics are good for the NFL, the former Cowboys quarterback and current CBS analyst said, “I do think it's been good for the league. I think anything that gets players together in celebration is a good thing. It's kind of neat to see, you know, all 11 guys on offense, or a bunch of them, get together and create stuff.
“I was really, like, if my 7-year-old likes it and thinks it's fun and looks good, I feel like, then, it's a good thing.”
Regrets, Romo has a few. “When they decided to change it, I was a little disappointed, because I'm a fantastic dancer. And so I was a little disappointed that I didn't get a chance to do a lot of this stuff.”
Might the players have something special planned for the Super Bowl? “I think they're going to be concentrated on the game and be a little bit more in tune with that,” Romo said. “But I'm sure they'll throw something out.”
SUPER BOWL MUSIC
This will be CBS analyst Tony Romo’s first Super Bowl as a player or announcer, but the seeds were planted at a couple of Super Bowl-week encounters earlier this decade.
The first came before Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona in 2015, when CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus spoke to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Romo, then still an active player for Jones, at a party and was wowed by Romo’s analysis of the Patriots-Seahawks matchup.
The second came before Super Bowl LI in Houston in 2017, when Romo still had not decided whether to retire as a player and met with McManus, CBS Sports president David Berson and then-CBS CEO Les Moonves.
“It was just a unique time, I guess,” Romo said. “We were starting to think about what you're going to do going forward. And then talking to them, the excitement from both sides, me, them and just it's an exciting time any time you're at the Super Bowl, especially when you feel like people want you to do something . . . I think when you're in that meeting and it feels comfortable and you're excited and it just gets you ready to make the leap I guess.”
Said McManus, “After the meeting, the three of us, after Tony left, in the little private room we were in in the restaurant, I turned to David and to (Moonves) and said, ‘That's our guy. We’ve got to get this guy.’ Having listened to him talk about football and have him answer our questions, I was convinced after that meeting that Tony was the guy we wanted in the booth next to Jim Nantz.”
Phil Simms has two Super Bowl rings as a player – and one MVP award – and has worked eight as a network game analyst. Now that Tony Romo has succeeded him in that role for CBS, he will shift on Sunday to pregame and halftime analysis.
But even after all that and at age 64, Simms said the experience never gets old for him.
'THE GENE STERATORE SHOW'
Mike Pereira joined Fox Sports in 2010, shortly after retiring from the NFL, and immediately established the value of the then-new role of television rules analyst.
But it would have been difficult at the time to envision how essential the job would become by 2019.
“The way the NFL rules are these days, I almost can't even imagine you could operate your Number 1 show without having someone up there immediately available,” said Jim Nantz, CBS’ lead play-by-play man.
That is why Nantz and analyst Tony Romo will have their rules security blanket, Gene Steratore, beside them on Sunday for Super Bowl LIII.
RAMS CHEERLEADERS WILL MAKE SUPER BOWL HISTORY
Teams have won Super Bowls both with and without cheerleaders, but if the Rams prevail over the Patriots on Sunday, they will be the first to win with male cheerleaders.
In fact, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies will make history just by performing at the game, win or lose.
The milestone has made them popular interview subjects since the Rams defeated the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, and they have embraced the experience.
Three days after the Saints game, Peron tweeted, “Ever since Sunday, I have woken up thinking that this is all a dream. But it’s not a dream ..... WE ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!!!”
The men joined the squad last March.
“I was at a Lakers game and I was watching the Laker Girls," Peron told "Good Morning America" last year, "and I was asking myself, 'Why can't I be down there?' I've choreographed for girls who dance on pro teams. I've danced with girls on various pro teams. I just thought, ‘Why not me?’"
BOOMER'S STREAK ENDING
The last time a Super Bowl was played without Boomer Esiason in either the television or radio booth, Rams coach Sean McVay was a week past his 13th birthday.
That was for Super Bowl XXXIII, 20 years ago on Thursday. Since then, Esiason has called one game on TV, with Al Michaels for ABC in Atlanta in 2000, followed by 18 in a row for Westwood One radio.
That streak will end on Sunday when fellow former quarterback Kurt Warner marks his first Super Bowl since succeeding Esiason full time in Westwood One’s “Monday Night Football” booth this season.
Esiason announced last July that he was stepping away from the radio job, citing his many other commitments, including WFAN’s morning talk show and his work with the Boomer Esiason Foundation.
Esiason will appear on CBS Sunday as part of the network’s extensive pregame show.
Warner will work with play-by-play man Kevin Harlan, in his ninth year calling the game on radio. Mike Holmgren, who won Super Bowl XXXI as the Packers’ coach, also will be part of the broadcast.
Tony Boselli and Ed Werder will be the sideline reporters.
SUPER BOWL 53 TICKETS
The resale market for Super Bowl LIII tickets so far has fallen short of the sky-high prices that last year’s Eagles-Patriots game commanded, but tickets still are in strong demand.
Vivid Seats, an independent ticket reselling site, said that as of Tuesday, the median asking price for the Rams-Patriots game was $4,675, up from less than $4,000 on Saturday but down from well over $5,000 on Jan. 14, before the conference championship games determined the two surviving teams.
Usually, but not always, prices begin to drop as kickoff nears.
As of Jan. 28, 2019, via Pregame.com
New England Patriots - 2 1/2
Over/under: 56 1/2
SUPER BOWL 53 PROP BETS
Super Bowl prop bets have been around forever, but now more Americans than ever can make them legally in the United States, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to such things.
So, here, guilt-free, are the nine most popular props at William Hill Sports Books in New Jersey, Nevada and West Virginia, based on total dollars wagered, in the week after the conference championship games:
1. “No” to James Develin scoring a touchdown.
2. “Yes” to there being a successful fourth-down conversion.
3. “No” to there being a safety.
4. “No” to their being an overtime.
5. “Touchdown” as the first score of the game.
6. “Under 54.5 yards” for the longest field goal.
7. “Yes” to there being a score in last two minutes of first half.
8. “No” to John Johnson having an interception.
9. “No” to there being a successful two-point conversion.
NO GAMBLING TALK ON CBS
CBS will maintain its season-long ban on announcers making references to gambling before and during the Super Bowl.
“Gambling is legalized in a few states now; it’s not widespread across the entire country,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “Our policy has been that in our football telecasting, including the ‘SEC on CBS’ and the NFL, we don’t discuss gambling information, lines, over/unders. We just don’t do that. That’s our policy.”
McManus was asked about gambling being something people talk about and do regardless and said, “That’s OK. They can do whatever they want to do. I think there are a lot of people who are probably gambling on the game and an awful lot of people who aren’t gambling on the game also. So what people are doing is not going to dictate what our policy is.”
McManus said CBS is open to revisiting the subject as more states legalize sports gambling, with New York moving toward joining New Jersey on the list.
“We’re going to remain very flexible and if we think it makes sense to change the policy we will,” he said. “We reevaluate it fairly often, so nothing is in stone. But right now, the policy is firm.”
Brent Musburger, who hosted nine Super Bowls, including seven for CBS, and now appears on the Vegas Sports Information Network, recently told WSCR (670 AM) radio in Chicago, “It’s ridiculous. I mean, of course they should refer to it . . . All you have to do is give the point spread and say that somebody’s favored by a field goal or a touchdown, and they’re expecting a game [with total points] in the 50s or the 60s, and basically you’ve covered it.”
SODA 1, BEER 2
More than a half-century in, the Super Bowl has not lost the capacity to surprise us. For example . . . Among the off-beat public relations pitches that are as much a part of Super Bowl week as inane interviews was this wrinkle:
More fans’ top beverage choice Sunday will be soda than beer, according to a survey by “Swagbucks,” which describes itself as a “rewards and loyalty-program company.”
Its poll of 1,000 American adults indicated almost a third (32.3 percent) would opt for soda over beer (28.5 percent). The other 61 percent were divided among water (14.5), cocktails (7.4), wine (7.2), coffee/tea (6.5) and other (3.6). It is not clear what is left under “other.” Fruit juice, perhaps? Seltzer? Mead?
Another finding that might surprise you, but that is in keeping with other surveys over the years: Only 30 percent of Americans plan to host or attend a Super Bowl party; the rest intend to stay home and watch alone or with family.
PUPPY BOWL XV
Jared Goff said the first Super Bowl he remembers is XXXVIII, when the Patriots beat the Panthers in Houston in 2004. That makes the Rams quarterback part of the last generation of Americans old enough to recall a world without Puppy Bowls.
This year the big event, which starts at 3 p.m. Sunday, marks its 15th anniversary, having debuted on Super Bowl Sunday in 2005, another year the Patriots won, over the Eagles in Jacksonville.
Animal Planet’s showcase has come a long way since then, and even inspired a copycat in Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl. (See what we did there?)
Puppy Bowl XV will feature more puppies (93) from more shelters (51) than ever, and will pit “Team Ruff” against “Team Fluff.” The winner gets the “Lombarky Trophy.”
A news release said it will include favorites such as the “water-bowl cam.” It also said the show will delve into “what these adorable puppies are really made of” via the use of a canine DNA test. Last year’s Puppy Bowl was the highest-rated to date in the key age 25-54 demographic.
Kittens will perform at halftime.