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Volume 21 No. 10
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For CBS Sports, For CBS Sports, ‘one goal, one night, one game’

James Brown was chomping on brown rice crisps on “The NFL Today” set as he watched the early Sunday afternoon games during the NFL’s opening weekend. Brown, who had hip surgery in the offseason, put himself on a regimented diet as he tries to lose weight as part of his rehab — setting a goal to lose up to 60 pounds by the Super Bowl.

Brown’s public weight loss goal is one of many illustrations of the importance CBS is placing on Super Bowl 50, a game that the league and network are promising will be the biggest of big events. He spent all of August rehabbing from the surgery to be ready for the season, when he travels to “Thursday Night Football” sites during the week and New York on the weekends. Brown wants to make sure he is in good shape when more than 100 million viewers tune in to watch the game in February.

“We recognize from the top of our organization that this is a big year,” Brown said.

James Brown and the CBS “NFL Today” crew are gearing up for Super Bowl 50.
Photo by: CBS SPORTS
Brown told a story from the offseason, when he approached CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus about a plan to launch a podcast series in which he would interview athletes — a plan that he shelved after talking to McManus.

“Sean told me, ‘Look. You’re a grown man. You can make your own decisions. But this is a big year for us, so just be mindful of that,’” Brown said. “I just had hip surgery. I sat back and said, ‘You’re right.’”

The Week 1 scene at the CBS Broadcast Center showed the nervous energy that comes with being the broadcaster for Super Bowl 50. I asked McManus when he feels the pressure of handling what’s being billed as the biggest Super Bowl, and he joked, “Whenever I think about it.”

“Super Bowl 50 is always in either the back of our mind or the front of our mind, whenever we’re doing anything NFL football-wise,” he said. “During the games, we’re concentrating a whole lot more on the individual game than we are on Super Bowl 50. But it’s always out there and will be mentioned every day of our football coverage.”

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Super Bowl 50 was part of CBS’s production throughout the afternoon, starting with the opening minutes of its “NFL Today” pregame show, which opened with a voice-over saying, “There’s one goal, one night, one game that everyone thinks about all year long. In February, the biggest one of them all is coming. And here at CBS it’s been 50 years in the making.”

The opening then showed highlights from various Super Bowls. During games, the CBS on-screen score bug declared “Home to Super Bowl 50.” The pregame show had the Lombardi Trophy on set, as it will each week during the season. And each game featured vignettes of relevant Super Bowl highlights. In the Chiefs-Texans game, for example, CBS showed highlights of Super Bowl IV with Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson. It then cut to a shot of Dawson today, who was sitting in the radio booth at the Texans’ NRG Stadium.

“It’s never out of our mind,” said Drew Kaliski, producer for “The NFL Today.” “We’ve been meeting about it since the day after the Super Bowl two years ago in New York when we went out to San Francisco and started planning and preparation. For the last two years, it’s been hot and heavy. We’ve had weekly meetings to talk about ideas, everything from features and graphics to set locations. We’re full steam ahead.”

There always seems to be heightened excitement around the Week 1 schedule. But to me, the scene at CBS Broadcast Center as the 4 p.m. ET games drew to a close seemed to convey a sense of relief that the countdown to CBS’s own march to the Super Bowl had finally started.

In what CBS calls the MP room, a control room of sorts, CBS Sports’ top executives — McManus, CBS Sports President David Berson and Executive Producer Harold Bryant — erupted with whoops when Broncos safety Darian Stewart intercepted a pass at the end of the team’s first game to preserve a victory over the Ravens. The cheers were not so much in support of the Broncos. Rather, they were an acknowledgment of a thrilling finish to a competitive game.

It also marked the end of a day of NFL games where CBS left no doubt about the fact that it is this year’s Super Bowl broadcaster.

“There’s no bigger event than the Super Bowl,” Berson said. “It’s the biggest there is. Now this will be the biggest of the Super Bowls. It’s going to be the biggest event of all time.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.