I woke up this morning to read several columns skewering CBS for not providing adequate entertainment during the Super Bowl blackout. It seems that all of the columnists tried to offer helpful suggestions for what CBS should do the next time the power goes out during the Super Bowl.

I'll run through several of those suggestions and explain why those are impossible at worst, or unhelpful at best.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: But never has the vapidity of NFL commentators been more painfully in evidence. It is amazing, in the year 2013, these are the people who are paid to talk live on television. That's their job. Professionally.
They are paid to talk live on television in the same way that Diane Sawyer is paid to talk live on television. Both "The NFL Today" team and Sawyer are mostly reading from a teleprompter, with a couple of bad jokes ad-libbed into the broadcast. You put Diane Sawyer in a scene where she has to run a 30-minute broadcast off the cuff, and the vapidity points will very quickly add up.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason just sort of mumbled, confused, which led, lord help me, Shannon Sharpe to fill the void.
Boomer Esiason was not on TV during the blackout. He was seven floors above, sharing a broadcast booth with Kevin Harlan on Dial Global Sports.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: I couldn't help but wonder how much better NBC or ESPN would have been with this. They would have at least had a reporter or two hanging around. I guarantee you Michele Tafoya or Sal Paolantonio have at least some information for us there. I guarantee you, they wouldn't have. An honest NFL official would have said "I don't know anything." A slightly more loquacious official would have blamed the utility for cutting off the SuperDome's power. In reality, the problem was a breaker inside the SuperDome, meaning the information Solomon Wilcots would have been sharing would have been wrong.
And, what's more, even though Michele Tafoya and SalPal have "experience" on NFL sidelines, their experience is only as deep as being fed information from a team spokesperson on injuries, and whatever they can observe from their reserved area on the sideline.


You may remember something similar happened on a Monday Night Football game at Candlestick Park earlier this NFL season. Stuart Scott and the rest of the ESPN "MNF" crew were there, and the time-filling was no less inane. There was no explanation for what happened to the power, although ESPN did have video of an explosion from their blimp that they kept showing, and speculating about. Eventually, ESPN did get an estimate of how long the delay would be out of Candlestick Park officials (possibly by the Public Address system). Other than that, they didn't seem to seek any comment or hold the NFL's feet to the fire.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: CBS, in an unforeseeable circumstance that you sort of nevertheless have to have a backup plan for (this being the Super Bowl and all), was left without its pants on the biggest sports day of the year.
CBS did have a back-up plan. They had a generator installed to run their equipment (most of it, at least). They had their studio crew on site. The only thing they didn't have on reserve was something to talk about!

Further, the Super Bowl, that happens once every three years, is a special case. During the regular season, CBS and FOX have the ultimate. If there were to be some kind of lengthy delay in one game, they simply switch their stations to another game. No need to fill 30 minutes without any advance warning. Because the Super Bowl is the only game happening, and the final game of the season, there is extremely little that you can talk about other than the mechanics of the game itself.

Finished with Mr. Leitch.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: There is a major screwup and the NFL won’t put someone on the air — and CBS won’t push the league — to try to explain what’s going on? That’s mind-boggling.
No, that's what billions of dollars will do. CBS has no incentive to do anything that might upset Roger Goodell, whose enterprise makes CBS billions more than it pays back to the NFL.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: Why not take a camera and microphone on the sidelines for an interview [with one of the players who was stretching on the field?
A: The NFL explicitly forbids broadcasters from interviewing players a certain number of hours before, or during, a game.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: At one point, CBS had a shot of John Harbaugh screaming at some suit who we assumed worked for the NFL (we take that grand leap because CBS never identified who the gentleman was). Why not stick a microphone in Harbaugh’s face and ask him why he was angry?
A: See above. Coaches are also off-limits. I'm a little surprised that the gentleman from the League wasn't identified, although Dial Global Sports did identify him as "just a messenger."

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News CBS’ inability to report the news, dig into all angles of the story, is a direct result of how the NFL controls the media. If normal coverage is limited and restricted, it stands to reason that league suits would try to black out all coverage of a Super Bowl blackout.
Hey look. Someone finally said something that is true.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News In the end, the league could have looked even worse -- If CBS had done its job.
This, I truly do not understand. CBS's job is to make the NFL look bad? Moreover, how could the NFL be made to look worse than having its Super Bowl interrupted by 30 minutes of darkness in New Orleans? It seems to me that the reality of the situation, that a breaker in a maintenance room somewhere in the Super Dome opened, makes the NFL look less bad.

I'll quickly summarize my opinions:
1) CBS did the only thing it could with its studio team. It was not good TV, but they had no alternative.
2) The NFL, and most other sports leagues, have quite a bit of leverage over how their league is covered. You may remember some commentators thought the NFL would somehow punish ESPN for its criticism of the TOUCHCEPTION (a.k.a. "Fail Mary") between Seattle and Green Bay this year. That doesn't seem to have happened, but the threat is a big money concern to the media companies that cover the NFL.