Scott D. Pierce: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms promise to keep it brief
Quick quiz: What former Utahn has more Super Bowl experience than any other who will be at the game in New Orleans on Sunday?
Answer: Jim Nantz, the former KSL sportscaster who's calling his third Super Bowl. That's in addition to the two times he hosted the studio shows.
CBS' lead sportscaster said working the Super Bowl isn't any different from working a regular-season game.
"You pretty much just do the game that you've always done," Nantz said. "I understand that there are fringe fans, and a lot of them are watching the game in a group setting. But we're there to cover a football game, and our formula stays pretty true to form. We believe in storytelling, best we can in short, very succinct stories."
On Saturday, Nantz had dinner with Dick Enberg, who called eight Super Bowls for NBC. At the 1983 game, Enberg was getting feedback in his headset through the entire first quarter.
"He and Merlin Olsen could not even get to the third or fourth word before it was coming back through their headsets and creating confusion for them," Nantz said. "So they talked through that whole first quarter in short, clipped phrases."
After the game, Enberg was "all upset because he thought they got off to a rough start, only to discover the reaction was 'You never sounded better.'
"He passed that along to me as a wonderful little teaching point," Nantz said "You do, in a game like this, want it to breathe. And it's one of those games where the old phrase 'less is more' probably is very appropriate."
"So, Jim, we've made a note for our audio team put feedback in Jim's headset," joked CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus.
One thing nobody was joking about was Ray Lewis. Asked how they would handle the story of the Baltimore star who was convicted of obstruction of justice in a double murder, Nantz, analyst Phil Simms, McManus and the rest of the CBS team went silent.
"We're going to tell Ray's story in the pregame," said executive producer Harold Bryant, finally breaking that silence. "And then Jim and Phil will call the game like they normally call a game."
Nantz said he had no intention of glorifying any single player, adding that he finds it "distressing" to focus on an MVP "when a team's hoisting a trophy."
"We'll figure out what our approach will be in some various end-of-the-game scenarios, but we've never going to make this about one player," he said.
And Simms said he will "judge how [Lewis] plays on the field" and won't return to the story of the murders, which happened 12 years ago.
"Who doesn't know the story?" he asked. "How many people have gone out there and reported on it? I don't know if there's time to do a story like that justice during the Super Bowl."
That's in addition to allegations that Lewis used performance-enhancing drugs this season.
It puts Nantz, Simms and CBS in an impossible position. If Lewis plays well and the sportscasters point that out, there's a segment of viewers who will see it as an endorsement of a man who has never adequately explained his part in those murders.
But the sportscasters aren't the ones who allowed Lewis back in the league. They've got jobs to do, and that involves football, not murder or PEDs.
In this particular case, perhaps the less said, the better.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
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