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XXXIX rates a perfect 10

Patriots-Eagles hits big number

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Lists remain in vogue these days, even the venerable Top Tens. And when it comes to TV ratings, the Patriots are on a lot of them in the wake of Sunday night's 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

In keeping with the Super Bowl numbering system, Roman numeral X marks the spot where Sunday night's Fox telecast wound up on Boston's list of all-time highest-rated sports telecasts.

The game did a 53.1 rating and 78 share in Boston. The rating represents the percentage of TV sets in the Boston market that tuned to the game and the share is the percentage of sets "in use" that were tuned to the game.

Boston was ranked third among the 56 metered Nielsen markets, trailing Jacksonville and Philadelphia.

Jacksonville returned a 58.9 rating (77 share) for the game, making it the highest-rated Super Bowl host market.

Philadelphia did a 56.0 rating (78 share) for the game, the highest for a participating city since Boston's Super Bowl win over the Rams three years ago did a 56.1. It also was the highest-rated program in Philadelphia history.

Nationally, the game did a 41.1 rating and 62 share, reaching an estimated 133.7 million viewers. That was the biggest audience in Fox programming history and the fifth most-watched Super Bowl.

In Boston, Sunday's 53.1 rating was 2 percent higher than the 52.2 for last year's 32-29 Patriots victory over the Panthers. By comparison, the 2002 win over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI did a 56.1 rating, the 1997 loss to Green Bay did a 55.6 and the 1986 loss to the Bears in Super Bowl XX did a 52.0.

Game 7 of the 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and Mets remains the top-rated sports event in the market at 59.9. The Red Sox' historic World Series-clinching victory over the St. Louis Cardinals last fall is tied for No. 2 at 59.0 with Game 7 of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox.

Fast-paced

The amazing thing about Sunday's four-hour pregame show was that it seemed to go by fairly quickly, with its change of venue halfway through and less-frantic-than-usual pacing.

Fox Sports president Ed Goren had the honest answer to the question: "Who needs a four-hour pregame show?"

"We do," he replied, "because our salespeople sold a four-hour show."

Some pregame moments that stood out:

* Host James Brown to Terrell Owens: "You mean if you get hurt, reinjure yourself [leg and ankle injuries], you're not worried about not being paid next year?" Owens: "If I get hurt again, they've assured me the damage would be 100 percent correctable."

* Inside joke? The Fox promo writer for last night's Super Bowl edition of "The Simpsons" had Homer wondering "if any other Super Bowl halftime show producers waited until 3:30 a.m. on game day to plan their show." It got a huge laugh inside the Fox trailer as everyone knew the plans for the show had been in the works for a year.

* Bigger joke: The studio crew of Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmy Johnson was skewered by comic Frankie Caliendo, who portrayed all four in an elaborate production piece. Caliendo, who had what Fox called "a winning record" going into the game, picked the Eagles. Long and Johnson picked the Patriots with Brown and Bradshaw taking the Eagles.

* Tim McCarver on the number of balls lost annually on the 17th hole at Sawgrass: "120,000. Make that 120,001" after Brian Urlacher put the first shot of Sunday's NFL vs. NASCAR vs. MLB "Hole-in-One" contest at the course in the water. For the record, NASCAR's Dale Jarrett was the winner of the contest in which the players landed only three of 18 shots on the green.

* Pregame panelist Johnson: "Jerry Jones [Cowboys owner] told me I'd never make it back to the Super Bowl. Well, here I am." Watching and listening to Johnson, it's easy to believe he is content with his lot in life as a TV studio analyst. Still, he'll say, "I didn't leave [as Cowboys coach] because of Jerry Jones. I was tired of the grind."

* Long wasn't bad on TV when he started as a studio analyst. Now he's as smooth as can be and as affable as any high-profile personality can be. His secret: "A good night's sleep. As long as I get my eight hours, I can go all day."

* When pop singer Kelly Clarkson sang live from Jacksonville during the pregame show, the Fox HD picture was so clear on the big screen that you could see several slight blemishes in her complexion. "That's why women [performers] hate HD," said one Fox type. On a live action note, Fox's end-zone camera angles worked great in high definition but weren't so clear and revealing in standard def.

* During the pregame show, Paul McCartney, the halftime act, did a reprise of his 2002 "Hard Day's Night" duet with Bradshaw. "I thought we'd do another song and maybe do it a bit better," he said. To which Long chimed in: "He [Bradshaw] skewered words "Sleeping like a dog . . . working like a log." So they crooned "She loves you . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . yeah." Afterward McCartney was gracious, saying, "The words were good." McCartney may have been a solo halftime act, but Fox gave Gretchen Wilson, Charlie Daniels, Black Eyed Peas, Earth Wind and Fire, and Alisha Keyes full stadium and national TV exposure in the hour before the game.

* Johnson and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are close (as seen by the snapshot Fox showed of the two in Hawaiian shirts on Johnson's boat to illustrate that level of access). But Belichick wouldn't speculate about how a third Super Bowl title would cement his place among all-time great coaches. "Ask me about it then [on the boat this summer]," he said. About players, Belichick said, "My biggest problem is the players who don't take constructive criticism, the ones who say `Here I am, this is what I do.' If they don't want to improve, you've got to go and get someone else."

* In case you missed the promos during the Super Bowl telecast, NASCAR on Fox begins the weekend after next at Daytona.

* The Fox graphics people used a technique called "enhanced spot shadow" to illustrate passes, players, running lanes and zones during the pregame analysis by Bradshaw, Long, Collinsworth, and Johnson. Maybe it was the HD monitor we saw the game on, but the effect was outstanding . . . Another bit of advance planning that worked was having the pregame show emanate from nearby Metropolitan Park for the first two hours instead of having the empty Alltel Stadium for a backdrop. Plus the show's cast got to mingle with the crowd for more "atmosphere" shots during their relocation to the stadium.

* And it's not over yet. Tune in this morning. Channels 4, 5, 7, 25, and NECN plan live coverage of the Patriots parade, and WEEI radio will be broadcasting from along the route.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com 

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