A year of meticulous planning builds to a crescendo in the most-watched event of the year and then darkness.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus was in his standard Super Bowl spot in the producer’s truck when potential disaster struck during Super Bowl XLVII between the 49ers and Ravens — the Superdome blackout six years ago.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” McManus said of the 22-minute partial power outage. “My first fear was that it had something to do with the CBS equipment and the thought that the CBS compound would not have electricity, but the rest of the stadium did, and that was even more frightening than the actual situation. We scrambled around best as we could.
“It was something none of us had ever experienced before and it was memorable and I was glad that once it was over, we went back into our game-producing mode and didn’t miss a beat.”
What leads up to preparing for a Super Bowl, including Sunday’s between the Patriots and Rams? McManus said the work began about a year ago, is a “constant presence” throughout the season and intensifies in the last two months as the pieces of an extensive pregame show come together.
It will be highlighted by a visit from Joe Namath to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ lone championship, a visit to the Wilson Sporting Goods football factory and a CBS News interview with President Trump.
“There’s a lot of pressure that mounts because you want to do a good job and you are going to be compared to what your competitors do, so you really want to have all bases covered,” said McManus, 63, who spearheaded CBS getting back the NFL 20 years ago and will be overseeing his seventh Super Bowl for the network.
The game preparation includes a video session in December with all the talent — play-by-play man Jim Nantz, analyst Tony Romo, sideline reporters Tracy Wolfson and Evan Washburn — and all the production talent, where they watch the past three Super Bowls.
“We just talked about what we thought was effective, who did what well, ways that we can get better,” McManus said, noting that this will be the first Super Bowl for Romo and executive producer Jim Rikhoff.
“Throughout the season we have had regular communication with Tony and Jim [Nantz] for ways that we think they can continue to get better.”
Romo has become the toast of the broadcasting world with his ability to predict plays based on pre-snap formations and movement.
“Tony has a freshness and enthusiasm in him that I think really resonates with the viewers,” McManus said. “He and Jim developing as well as they have together in such a short time has been one of the most satisfying elements of my career.”
McManus will get to Mercedes-Benz Stadium around 9:30 a.m., spend time with team owners on site, commissioner Roger Goodell and go over any last-minute issues. McManus will spend the pregame show and game in the production truck.
“I’m standing right behind Rikhoff and our director Mike Arnold,” McManus said. “And I say this tongue in cheek, I think they welcome my participation and involvement.”
And what if the lights go out again?
“If something like that was to happen again, I would probably rely more on our on-field reporters to get more information even though at the time there was almost no information to get,” McManus said. “I would have them talk to people in the stands more. … It was a surreal day to be honest with you and hopefully we won’t have to go through that again, but if we do we are going to be better prepared on how to cover it.”