The Chiefs and 49ers kick off Super Bowl LIV at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. But Fox’s pregame coverage begins at 11 a.m., because as we all know, Super Bowl Sunday is nothing without 7½ hours of oversaturated pregame coverage.
I’m already bracing for the awkward Rob Gronkowski comedy bits on the pregame show, after which Michael Strahan will out-fake-laugh every other panelist while Gronk gives the camera his resting deer-in-the-headlights face. I’m setting the over/under at 1½ Gronk appearances. We should at least be able to gamble on this nonsense.
Network suits, no matter whether they’re at NBC, CBS or Fox, think we can’t get enough, and I imagine their ad revenue justifies putting Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on our screens at 11 a.m. on a Sunday.
Still, I wonder: Is there anyone out there that actually makes a habit of watching all of the coverage from beginning to end, even in the years when the Patriots are involved? I can’t imagine trying — or wanting — to digest all of that before the game begins. If you’re at a party, the priorities during pregame festivities should be mingling with friends and posting up near the shrimp plate to make sure you get first dibs. That’s the veteran way to pregame.
Out of curiosity to see if any of you I’m-watching-it-all weirdos exist, I put it to a Twitter poll on Thursday. Unscientific, sure, but somewhat telling. At this writing, 5.1 percent (of 918 voters) said they’ll watch it all. So this look at how Fox will approach its coverage Sunday is for you, you 5.1 percent of oddballs out there.
Fox's pregame coverage of Super Bowl LIV begins at 11 a.m. Sunday. Is there anyone out there that watches this from beginning to end, even when the Patriots are involved?
— Chad Finn (@GlobeChadFinn) January 30, 2020
■ Fox’s coverage begins with an hour’s worth of contrived arguments. “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed Super Bowl Special’’ comes on at 11 a.m. Bayless is listed by Fox as an “award-winning journalist,’’ which is pretty far down the list of descriptions that should be applied to him these days.
■ Now here’s a worthwhile hour. “Road to the Super Bowl,’’ produced by NFL Films, airs at noon. It’s basically a highlight reel of the 2019 season, featuring the best moments, performances, and teams. I’d watch anything by NFL Films as a pregame show. Seven-and-a-half hours of “Football Follies’’ would be fine by me.
■ At 1 p.m., Fox turns it over for an hour to its “NFL Kickoff’’ team, which is basically the junior varsity for the real studio crew, but is often the more entertaining show. Charissa Thompson hosts, with analysts Tony Gonzalez, Michael Vick (don’t bother with the new ESPN “30 for 30’’ on him, FYI), Dave Wannstedt, Colin Cowherd, Peter Schrager, and tight end Greg Olsen, who just parted ways with the Panthers.
■ The official pregame show will air from 2 p.m. until kickoff. Curt Menefee hosts, and is joined by Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Strahan, and Jimmy Johnson. Jay Glazer is the insider, while Gronk will be among those providing special reports, though Fox hasn’t clarified the specifics. This much we do know: There will be much guffawing over those 4½ hours.
■ At 6:30 p.m., finally, the game. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call their sixth Super Bowl together, the most of any current broadcast team, and their first since their outstanding call of the Patriots’ comeback victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Erin Andrews and Chris Myers are the sideline reporters, while Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino serve as rules analysts. In a nice bit of serendipity, Buck calls the game 50 years after his father, Jack, called Super Bowl IV between the Chiefs and Vikings.
Also of note if you’re spending Sunday driving around in your vehicle or something: Kevin Harlan and Kurt Warner, as good as any broadcast tandem there is in the NFL, will have the call for Westwood One radio.
. . .
This probably comes as a surprise to anyone that assumed the Red Sox and Yankees were already scheduled for every ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball’’ game this year, but the network announced this week it has added the July 26 matchup to its schedule. It will follow the Hall of Fame induction of Ted Simmons, Larry Walker, Marvin Miller, and one other ballplayer whose name escapes me at the moment but who will surely be mentioned a few times on the broadcast (Oh, all right. It’s Derek Jeter.) . . . The “Inside The NBA’’ tribute to the late Kobe Bryant Tuesday night before the Celtics-Heat game was as poignant and powerful as television gets, especially when Shaquille O’Neal acknowledged that he hasn’t been able to sleep since his sister died of cancer in October, and won’t be able to now with Bryant, whom he called his little brother, gone. I can’t imagine anyone doing a more graceful job of hosting than Ernie Johnson, but the show was raw and heartbreaking and hopefully at least a little cathartic. It should be noted that it drew a huge audience, with an average of 861,000 viewers. I’m glad I watched it, and I hope to never see anything like it again.