By: John Molori
February 06, 2006

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- Pregame patter
- Game misconducts
- Ads that subtract

Highlights and lowlights of a Super Bowl bonanza Belichick stars; Officials fail; Ads disappoint

According to ABC and ESPN public relations, Super Bowl XL, a 21-10 win for Pittsburgh over Seattle, scored a 41.6 rating, the best since 2000. The game was viewed by the second largest number of people and homes ever.

As for analysts, Ray Lewis and Steve Mariucci were solid for the NFL Network, while Rod Woodson's sycophantic Steeler rooting was pretty lame.

Mike Ditka of ESPN wins the pregame "Mr. Obvious Award” stating, "You can't do anything until the game starts.” Wow, thanks for the insight, Mike.

ABC had Patriots' coach Bill Belichick sitting alongside Mike Tirico at field level. Belichick looked relaxed as he discussed proper pregame team pacing. "You don't want to burn it up in pregame warm-ups,” said Belichick. He went on to say that a team should be peaking when the captains take the coin toss.

ABC featured an excellent look back at Joe Namath and Super Bowl III, reinforcing the belief that Namath is the coolest man in NFL history. ABC/ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber should have been honored by Namath's infamous " I want to kiss you” request.

By the way, in discussing an injured Seahawk during the game, Kolber said that they "pulled his pants down and taped up his groin.” Ouch, kind of makes "I want to kiss you” seem tame!

The pregame also showcased a great segment on the Hasselbeck family. Incidentally, Hasselbeck's open embracing of his baldness made this reporter quite proud. He is the Doug Williams of bald quarterbacks, and don't give me that Terry Bradshaw stuff. The ex-Steeler wore a horrid rug for much of his 1970s Super Bowl heyday.

ESPN/ABC's Andrea Kremer again starred with a feature on ex-Raider Jack Tatum. The piece was dark and somewhat disturbing, just like Tatum. It was clear that Tatum still has few regrets about paralyzing Patriot Daryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game. Kremer also spoke to Stingley regarding the incident and relayed his thoughts.

ABC's talent discussed Steeler Joey Porter's pre-Super Bowl trash talking and should have tapped into Belichick's expertise in this discussion. In last year's Super Bowl, Belichick told his team to stop jawing with the Eagles and focus on doing their jobs. The scolding was captured by NFL Films.

Belichick did do an expert job in dissecting Ben Roethlisberger's strengths. He also called the 1985 Bears defense "as good as anybody,” and said that his 1990 Giants defensive goal for Super Bowl XXV was to neutralize Thurman Thomas.

As for his 2001 Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI vs. the Rams, Belichick said, "Our game plan was decided by two words: Marshall Faulk.”

Belichick proved prophetic when he stated that Seattle would have to throw the ball to win. He was also right in saying that Pittsburgh's spread offense is a key and that the Steelers have more playmakers on defense. When Tirico said that Belichick should become a TV analyst, Belichick joked, "I don't think I could come over to the dark side.”

ESPN's Mike Ditka and George Wendt starred in a "Da Bears” feature based on the old "Saturday Night Live” skit. Bear fan Wendt told the ex-Bears coach that he bought one of Ditka's hips on the Internet. He also thanked Ditka for "stinking out the joint” as Saints' coach as a sign of respect to the Bears.

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel also tickled funny bones in a piece where he used the key to the city of Detroit to spy on a swimsuit model, drive the Red Wings' Zamboni and eventually, get shot with a spear gun by Ted Nugent. Nugent said, " I'm the Motor City Mad Man. I ain't got the key to Jack Diddley.” Easily, the quote of the day.

ABC's Jim McKay provided a typically thoughtful piece on an Iranian hostage who was uplifted by watching Super Bowl XV upon his freedom from capture in 1981, but the best segment of the day was a Chris Connelly ABC feature on a Pop Warner football league for physically challenged kids in upstate New York. If you didn't cry, check your pulse.

Chris Berman had a fit of Bill Cowher hyperbole when he stated in ABC's pregame show, "No one replaces Chuck Noll and has this kind of success.” What success? Before last night, Cowher had yet to win a Super Bowl and had only been to one.

Robin Roberts' interview with Mick Jagger and the game's open featuring Harrison Ford in a Dr. Seuss theme can both be best described as weak.

Game time

John Madden and Al Michaels did a decent job of calling Super Bowl XL. Michaels was his usual self, on top of every call with the right mix of drama and understatement. Madden, all too often, stated the obvious. In the second quarter, he offered, "Ben Roethlisberger has to throw more on first down and complete them.”

Speaking of Roethlisberger, the Steeler QB was wearing a glove on his passing hand. Before the game, Troy Aikman said that Roethlisberger might do just that because of the residue on new footballs.

ABC's statistical graphics were terrific. When Roethlisberger's second quarter dive was called a touchdown and challenged, an ABC graphic showed that referee Bill Leavy overturns only 23% of challenged calls, the lowest rate in the NFL. Sure enough, Leavy upheld the horrible touchdown call.

This was, undoubtedly, the worst officiated game in Super Bowl history. It was Leavy's first Super Bowl as referee and it showed. Seattle's Darrell Jackson had a touchdown reception called back on a bogus pushing off call. It seemed that every time Seattle executed a big play, the referees called a flag to nullify the gain.

In short, Leavy and his crew negatively affected the outcome of the game in embarrassing fashion. Madden alluded to the bad calls, but he is an NFL company man and was not nearly critical enough of the officials.

Leavy's losers hit a new low for their profession in the fourth quarter. They missed several offside calls against Pittsburgh, called a phantom hold on Seahawk Sean Locklear nullifying a big reception and called a bogus block below the waist on Matt Hasselback who was not blocking, but tackling.

Hasselbeck's called fumble was thankfully overturned by replay, but a clear helmet first hit by Deshea Townsend on Hasselbeck with 6:20 left in the game went ignored.

ABC's replays clearly showed that Leavy and crew poorly spotted a would-be first down run by Seattle's Mack Strong and incorrectly gave a first down to Roethlisberger on a run with 3:41 remaining.

In short, Leavy and company's stripes should have been black and gold, not black and white. They officiated like the Rolling Stones performed: sad, tired and nearly incomprehensible.

Commercial success?

Like the officiating, this was probably the worst crop of Super Bowl ads ever. ABC's show promos were better than the paid commercials at more than $2 million a pop. Here is a rundown of a few bests and many worsts.

Pizza Hut: Jessica Simpson can feed me anything, anywhere and anytime.

"Desperate Housewives” promo: It's nice to know that as a fan of the show, I run with Hugh Hefner, Sugar Ray Leonard, Matt Leinart, Shaquille O'Neal and Tony Hawk. Party at Hef's place!

"Dancing with the Stars” promo: God's greatest creations: 3. Light, 2. Water, 1. Stacy Keibler's legs.

Bud Light: Drunk people trashing an office. Not funny

Burger King: If I want to watch pretty women in colorful outfits jumping on each other, I'll check out Cinemax "Friday After Dark.”

FedEx: Cavemen sending packages. Not funny.

Diet Pepsi: Jay Mohr was mildly amusing reprising his agent role from "Jerry Maguire,” but last year, Pepsi featured Eva Longoria. Anything else is a disappointment.

Aleve: Leonard Nimoy goes "In Search of…Pain Relief.” Love it.

Budweiser: Naked sheep. Not funny.

Michelob: Girl tackles boy. Boy tackles girl. Only in commercials would such a dweeb have such contact with such a hottie.

Gillette: FIVE BLADES? What's next, sticking my freaking face under a lawn mower?

Sprint: Guy whips his cell phone at a friend's head, twice. Now that's funny!

John Molori's columns are published at Patriots Football Weekly,, The Boston Metro, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, New England Ringside Magazine,,,,, and Email John at [email protected]