Transcript for SUPER BOWL XLVII - The Billion Dollar Game

Steve Paulson: From Wisconsin Public Radio and PRI, Public Radio International, it ‘s To the Best of Our Knowledge. I ‘m Steve Paulson in for Jim Fleming. I ‘ll tell you, listening to that music brings back memories. Monday Night Football. Howard Cosell. I grew up with football. I and since I grew up in Wisconsin I was a Green Bay Packers fan. I ‘m still a huge Packers fan, which makes this Super Bowl kind of bitter sweet. I thought the Packers might make it to the big game. But hey, it ‘s the Super Bowl and I ‘m excited. It should be a great game, which brings us to our first interview with Allen St John. He wrote The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport: Super Bowl Sunday. Jim Fleming asked him, when did football become more than a game?

 

Allen St John: I think it ‘s been sort of, you know, a gradual evolution. I think that there have been just different things that sort of pushed the game into being something much more than a game. I mean the first thing though of course was the fact that...and it was really kind of a coincidence in a way and not something that was really planned out. But this idea that you make the Super Bowl a giant sort of it ‘s A, a neutral site event and two, it ‘s a site where you have a date well in advance. And so you can plan things around that whereas you look at almost any other championship game in, certainly in professional sports, you don ‘t have that. You don ‘t know where the World Series is going to be played. You don ‘t know when it ‘s going to start. You don ‘t know when the NBA Finals are going to start. You don ‘t know when the Stanley Cup Finals are going to start. And you don ‘t know where any of those things are going to be. So it ‘s really hard to sort of do anything that ‘s planned in advance. And the Super Bowl on the other hand, you know, we know where the Super Bowls are going to be and when they ‘re going to be. You know going out for, you know, four or five years. And that ‘s one of the reasons that they ‘re able to make it into such a big spectacle and a big holiday really.

 

Jim Fleming: Yeah, that explains almost more than anything else. Because we ‘ve been talking about outside the game of football now. We should get a little closer to inside. You you had you had the opportunity to go inside Fox Sports as they planned the Super Bowl XLII. What what what was it like there? What what challenges did they face as they began planning this broadcast?

 

St John: Well, I think it ‘s really interesting because, I mean, these guys had a guy name Artie Kempner, who ‘s the director for Fox Sports and a guy named Richie Zyontz, who ‘s the producer. And basically they knew that they were going to be doing the Super Bowl. You know, Fox basically, and as do all the networks, sort of keep teams together, the technical teams and then also the broadcast teams. You know, and they know that the Joe Buck and Troy Aikman team is going to be the number one team. They ‘re going to do the Super Bowl. So they knew this coming in. And they ‘ve done the Super Bowl once before. And the thing is though, these guys are very much students of the game. I mean they look watch old game tapes the same way that people watch games. But they ‘re looking at the coverage. And one of the things that they would tell me is they look at these games and they were clearly these guys who they respected tremendously and who had done, you know, and who are really, you know, the very best, you know, that particular network had to offer at any given point. And yet the games were often sort of underwhelming from a technical point of view. They were kind of choppy. They just didn ‘t have a flow and a rhythm. And what they sort of figured out was that again, and this idea of Super Bowl sort of growing from more to more was like well, you know, if twelve cameras is good then seventeen cameras is better and twenty-four cameras is even better, and how about thirty? And at a certain point you could just, you know, when you ‘re doing the Super Bowl you have some budget and you can just sort of throw resources at it. The problem of course is that unlike like let ‘s say a film set where, you know, if it doesn ‘t work well you get take two or you get take twenty-seven. You know, in a Super Bowl you don ‘t get that. What you get is you got literally a matter of seconds to find the right replay, to find the right monitors and all of that. And the thing is they, you know, they would get to the point where they would just literally not know where to look at any given point because they were essentially trying to sort of play a different game in the Super Bowl than they did all year long. And that ‘s and Artie and Richie were saying we ‘re really going to try and not to do that. We ‘re going to really resist that impulse. And it was something was kind of a theme all the way all the way throughout the season. And they had, you know, and there were a few bumps along the road, a few beautiful games that had one glaring mistake and and that sort of thing. And it and there was sort of, you know, just hoping that that sort of thing didn ‘t come back to bite them in the Super Bowl.

 

Fleming: Well and then this game. They had the Giants and the Patriots. The Patriot ‘s perfect season and the upstart Giants there. And there were some plays where they must have been glad they had the thirty cameras I guess. And the the thirty times, however many people, to know where the footage was from those thirty cameras.

 

St John: Well actually what they did is really, they didn ‘t go with the thirty cameras. They added a couple of extra cameras and a few extra people to basically just, you know, if we need them and sort of keep them, you know, keep them, off to the side. And they basically went with a real sort of straight forward kind of layout. And it worked beautifully. There was a, you know, I think one little moment where they were on the David Tyree catch, they ‘re like, where is it? And-

 

Fleming: This is the Eli Manning game.

 

St John: This exactly Eli Manning ‘s pass to David Tyree with only a few seconds left in the game. It was a huge, crucial, you know. It was the signature play not only of the game but maybe of the Super Bowl in general. It was one of the greatest plays ever. And for a second they weren't sure that they had the replay. But then if you actually go back and you look at it, the actual play, the first replay that they have is just absolutely poetic. You see, this a play where Eli Manning is getting all sorts of pressure and and I was talking again to Joe Buck, who was the announcer and he ‘s saying, in my head I had this the words were already there. They just hadn't quite gotten to my mouth.

 

Fleming: And the words were?

 

St John: And the words were, and Eli Manning is sacked. And he didn ‘t say that. And you can hear him he says Eli Manning and he ‘s about to say it and waiting basically for for Manning to go down.

 

Joe Buck:  pressure from Thomas off the end. Eli Manning stays on his feet-

 

St John: And there ‘s just that little bit of hesitation. But he can see that it was that it was going to happen and yet, some how or another, like, you know, a grape he just sort of squirted out of the pile, rolled to his right, found Tyree. Tyree jumps up, catches the ball up against his helmet, and makes the catch.

 

Buck: And Eli man I don ‘t know how he got out of there. I thought he was on the ground and and then he came out of the pile and just slings it.

 

St John: And again they had just this absolutely beautiful poetic shot of this. And it was about, you know, again, its its they didn ‘t it was a matter of taking the cameras-

 

Fleming: Well there was so many times when that could have gone wrong. When you think about Joe Buck almost saying something that would have had him the butt of jokes for years to come. But then you think about the camera to. They had absolutely every reason to to sit back on their heels as they watched Manning go down. But instead somebody was watching Tyree.

 

St John: Well that ‘s exactly that ‘s exactly the point though. I mean, you know, and again this was sort of the payoff for year .years worth of one, just banging it into the heads of all these camera guys. And because all the guys to get on to the Fox A team you ‘ve got to be very, very good. The problem of course is that some of the guys who are very, very good are sort of trying to sort of make up for the mistakes of guys who were maybe not quite as good when they worked on teams with where they were clearly the best guy. Well these guys, everybody is very good. And what Artie Kempner would be banging into their heads every single time is, you have to stay with your assignment. You cant sort of get just go after the ball. You cant go after a certain player. You just have to do what your job is and expect that everybody else is going to do it. And then sometimes also be called upon on these just when you least expect to show, you know, on a play where they ball doesn ‘t come to you in order to show something else about the game the game is developing and about what ‘s going on away from the ball. And then this this one particular shot and this one particular replay and really that last drive of the drive of the game. That just showed that that was the culmination of just a full season of just of discipline, of people saying here, this is how we ‘re going to do it this way. And we ‘re going to stick to the program. And that ‘s what we ‘re going to do.

 

Fleming: You talk about Joe Buck and Troy Aikman and what they didn ‘t say and what they almost said, and what they did say. But there ‘s a .there ‘s a kind of famous moment at the end when it was what they didn ‘t say that was really the story, wasn ‘t it?

 

St John: Exactly. I mean it came, you know, finally when Plaxico Burress, who had, you know, a very, very expensive gunshot...this a during the season this year. Well when Plaxico Burress was was the star of that Super Bowl and made the made that really remarkable catch.

 

Buck: Burress, a long touchdown New York.

 

St John: Joe Buck just said nothing. He just let it let it play out. He just and they just had this beautiful montage of the different players, of the people in the stands, of people on the sidelines. And just really sort of let the moment be there and didn ‘t and didn ‘t stomp over it. And for really a shockingly long time. It ‘s like it ‘s over a minute where there ‘s just nothing but, you know, live audio but no but no commentary. There ‘s basically sort of nothing to say in that moment. And they were smart enough to not say it.

 

Paulson: Allen St John is the author of The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport: Super Bowl Sunday.

 

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