“There is no day in all of American life where we have this kind of communal experience.”

NBC Sports today conducted a media conference call to preview its pregame coverage of Super Bowl XLIII with Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics; Mike Weisman, Executive in Charge of Production; Sam Flood, Coordinating Producer; Bob Costas (pregame host); Cris Collinsworth (co-host); Keith Olbermann (co-host); Dan Patrick (co-host); Jerome Bettis (analyst); and Tiki Barber (analyst).

EBERSOL ON THE PREGAME SHOW: “From time to time people think ‘these pregame shows are going to become longer and longer and longer.’ Can I tell you something? There is no day in all of American life where we have this kind of communal experience. Everybody is interested. The Super Bowl has always got the same audience, give or take just a few million people. They want to be part of the communal experience. They’re intrigued by the ads. This is the one time all year where every ad has people leaning forward in their seats. They want to be part of the process. So we’re filling that curiosity throughout the day.”

EBERSOL ON NBC RETURNING TO THE SUPER BOWL: “I’m reflecting back on the last time we did the Super Bowl, it was some eleven years ago, and it was a tough moment for many people at NBC Sports. We were particularly spoiled because through faith’s goodwill we had done four of the previous six Super Bowls and we almost felt like we owned it. Now we come back, and I’ve gone to a Super Bowl or two along the way but I have never really been around for the whole week to see the size, the magnitude, to see just how big it is now.”

COLLINSWORTH ON THE MATCHUP: “For a football fan, I think it has one of the most compelling matchups you can have in a league. To be Kurt Warner, a guy who believes in getting all his backs and receivers out of the backfield, leaving himself unprotected, going against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the way that Dick LeBeau and Troy Polamalu and the defensive player of the year James Harrison like to bring the pressure, it’s just one of those classic Ali-Frazier kind of matchups for a football geek like I am. So that is going to be tremendous fun for me. Coming from Kentucky with a lot of horse racing in our blood there, we’re told when you’re handicapping the horses to pay attention to nothing but the last three games or the last three races when you’re getting ready for the Derby. Well if you pay attention to Arizona’s last three games, look out.”

WEISMAN ON SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THE PREGAME SHOW:
“You look for a mix. We have to appeal to the hardcore football viewer who watches ‘Football Night in America’ and ‘Sunday Night Football’ all year. Then there’s an audience that is less familiar with football and we have an obligation to tell them some of the back-stories. Then you also have the challenge that there are parties going on and people are watching in groups and that’s why we try and bring in the entertainment factor as part of the pregame show. There will be less features than normal on a football pregame show. We are relying more on more input, more on camera time from the talent telling stories, moving the day along, rather than going to, as we’ve seen on other networks at other times, long features, that are sometimes a chance for people to turn the dial.”

EBERSOL ON JENNIFER HUDSON: “Jennifer Hudson is going through one of the toughest things imaginable to a human being and will make her return center stage in American life singing the national anthem.”

BETTIS ON THE STEELERS AS A MODEL FRANCHISE: “This franchise, they understand the business model that you believe in people and not numbers.”

BETTIS ON THE STEELERS STORYLINES: “I know a little bit about Pittsburgh. There are a lot of great storylines with Pittsburgh. Obviously the first is Ben Roethlisberger and his Super Bowl jitters and will they return or won’t they. You’ve got Hines Ward struggling to play injured out there. He told me that there’s no way he won’t be out on that football field. Can Willie Parker run against the Arizona defense and of course the chess match with Coach LeBeau and Kurt Warner. From the Steelers side this is an opportunity to get six Super Bowl Championships. So it’s going to be very, very interesting to see what happens. Coach Tomlin is a young coach, I think he’s going to open up this new movement to young head coaches and I think it’s going to be really important to see how well he performs in the Super Bowl.”

COLLINSWORTH ON KNOWING WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LOSE A SUPER BOWL: “In this day we not only document the winner, and that’s pretty easy, everybody wants to give you an interview and everybody wants to celebrate the moment, but to help you understand what that loser is feeling like walking off that field with the other teams colors confetti blowing in their hair. That is not fun.”

Bettis: “For the record I sleep pretty good at night.”

Collinsworth: “You eat pretty good too.”

BARBER ON THE CARDINALS STORY: “This team has been forgotten for so many years. They were the laughing stock of the NFL, the guaranteed win on most people’s schedules for so long. But when you really look at this team and where they come from, how they balance their offense, the stories that haven’t been told or maybe been told once or twice, people don’t really think about them because they reside in the desert.”

BARBER ON CARDINALS RECEIVERS: “Larry Fitzgerald is one of the greatest people in this National Football League and his stated goal was to be the best receiver in football in the history of the game and he’s well on his way to doing that. Anquan Boldin may be the toughest receiver in the history of the game having been playing with a broken top jaw.”

PATRICK ON COVERING THE SUPER BOWL: “After 17 years covering the Super Bowl for ESPN on the outside looking in, it’s an honor to be part of the pregame show and the festivities that will be there.”

OLBERMANN ON COVERING THE SUPER BOWL: “The broadcast, obviously for all of us involved in it, no matter what degree of our previous experience is, is a pinnacle of everybody’s career from those of us who are on this call, to the guys who drive the golf carts around the compound.”

EBERSOL ON SUPER BOWL AD SALES: “Considering the state of the economy in the United States we couldn’t be any more thrilled with where we are. As of yesterday we had four spots to sell. I’m told within the last few hours two of those four have sold, so now we’re down to two spots unsold in the game — a large number of them for as much as $3 million. Clearly the Super Bowl experience will bring about the largest gross income for television coverage of the Super Bowl.

“I know that everybody wants to turn this into a melodrama about the sales. This is an extraordinary story against the backdrop of this economy. It’s an unbelievable story by the sales guys who had the smarts to start selling this thing last March, April, May, June. The vast majority was out of the way so it was resistant to the very tough economy we’re in.”

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