When the NFL Films announced that it had cobbled together every play of Super Bowl I, and that NFL Network would show the game in its entirety, it sounded like a landmark achievement in sports broadcasting: The full recording of Super Bowl I was previously thought lost to history, and Friday night’s re-airing would be a historic moment.
Instead, it was a major disappointment.
Although NFL Network did, in fact, show every play of Super Bowl I, its presentation fell far short of a full re-broadcast of the game. NFL Media had said the game would feature the original radio call of Jim Simpson, who passed away this week at the age of 88, but what NFL Network mostly showed was its own analysts, in their familiar Los Angeles studio, talking over the game. The commentary wasn’t particularly interesting, didn’t offer much historical insight or actual analysis of the game, and served only to detract from what should have been a big event for NFL Network.
Perhaps NFL Media thought it needed that kind of filler content because the NFL Films footage didn’t include all the moments between plays. Maybe it would have seemed jarring to viewers if the broadcast had been full of stops and starts. But even if thats the case, the filler content could have been so much better. The good stuff — like an interview with Len Dawson, the Chiefs’ quarterback in Super Bowl I — was far too brief. And the bad stuff — like the Los Angeles studio commentators informing us that The Beatles and The Monkees were the top musical acts in January of 1967, when Super Bowl I was played — went on way too long. I could listen to Len Dawson talk about Super Bowl I for three hours, but I don’t want to listen to NFL Network analysts who had no connection to Super Bowl I talk for three hours.
The best thing I can say for the NFL Network broadcast is that it could be fixed, if NFL Media is willing. The network could air Super Bowl I again and include only sound from the participants — actually letting us hear Simpson’s original radio broadcast, and filling in holes with better features, like NFL Films audio of coaches Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram. A re-airing of Super Bowl I could be a great broadcasting achievement, but NFL Network needs to do it right.