Any Super Bowl Sunday is television's longest day for the network involved. You've got to fill hours of pre-game and then you have to put on game coverage with critics -- professional and otherwise -- just waiting for you to foul up something.
This year, it was CBS' turn and it got perhaps the most surreal Super Bowl of all time: a game that was on the verge of being a blowout, followed by a blackout at the stadium and then an epic, if ultimately failed, comeback. And, while it had its moments, the network really didn't rise to the occasion.
Let's deal with the game telecast first.
CBS' lead announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms is not the worst in TV. But Nantz and Simms aren't the best, either, no better than workmanlike at best. On Sunday, they failed all too often to capture the excitement of what was taking place and, at times, provided commentary that sounded confused at best and clueless at worst. At times, viewers must have been saying, "Where are Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth when we really need them?"
Simms was really the chief culprit, notably in the second half. He is the master of stating the obvious instead of providing any real insight, but on Sunday he just seemed a bit addled with things getting worse as the game went along. There was confusion over a challenged call by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on the spot of the ball. First, it was a bad decision, then it was a good challenge. (It was a terrible challenge, actually.) Then there was more confusion over whether the Ravens should take a safety toward the end of the game. (Nantz set up Simms to be on point, but he fumbled the ball.) And then he glossed over what looked to be holding on Michael Crabtree on the 49ers' last play, saying, "late in the game, it's hard to throw a penalty." Even if the call, or non-call, was right, it needed a little more explanation than that.
Although it was a wicked curveball by any standards, CBS also didn't handle the blackout particularly well. If you were a viewer at home, you were completely left in the dark (as it were) as to what was happening, with no explanation before the network cut to a commercial. Sure, the booth was out but, seriously, no one else -- even in a studio in New York -- could pick up a microphone and do a quick, "hey, we just lost power in part of the Superdome"? And even when the network came back, it was to sideline reporter Steve Tasker, who seemed dazed and confused.
Good to know, however, that -- as the network said in a later statement -- "all commercial commitments during broadcast are being honored." Whew, that's a relief.
Before we got to Simms and Nantz, there was one notable part of the pre-game show.
CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe had an interview with the Ravens' Ray Lewis, his former teammate, and brought up, correctly and in context, the double murder Lewis was involved in. Lewis gave an extraordinarily evasive answer, saying investigators missed clues and contending God was on his side. Sharpe never followed up, but Boomer Esiason, his fellow analyst, was having none of it. Commenting on the piece, he said Lewis "knows what went on there. He can obviously come out and say it. But he doesn't want to it say it.
"I appreciate you asking the question. I'm not sure I'm buying the answer."
Don't think Esiason and Lewis will be exchanging Christmas cards this year.
Follow Charlie McCollum on Twitter at twitter.com/charlie_mccollu.