CBS fails Su­per spot check

Net­work’s out-of-fo­cus de­ci­sion to air moral-ad­vo­cacy ad cre­ates an ap­palling prece­dent

Chicago Sun-Times - - Sports Sports Media -

For a net­work, tele­vis­ing a Su­per Bowl should be goof­proof. Sell ads. Col­lect money. Mount cam­eras. Keep Dan Dier­dorf away from live mi­cro­phone. Count profit.

But leave it to the wacker-hacks at CBS to pin­prick the most golden foot­ball.

The de­ci­sion of the Fish­eye Net­work to sell a 30-sec­ond spot to Fo­cus on the Fam­ily — the con­ser­va­tive, tax-ex­empt evan­gel­i­cals who op­pose abor­tion, ‘‘mil­i­tant fem­i­nism’’ and gay rights, among other things — is wretch­edly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

But not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause of any­thing the Chris­tian group ad­vo­cates.

This is Amer­ica. They are en­ti­tled to their be­liefs and to free speech. They are en­ti­tled to spread their word.

But in the mid­dle of a Su­per Bowl — at a cost of at least $2.5 mil­lion?

At any point in time, did the CBS jam­bones con­sider the across-the­board im­pli­ca­tions of their de­ci­sion?

For bet­ter or worse, in con­tem­po­rary Amer­ica, Su­per Bowl Sun­day has evolved into a robo-pop bac­cha­na­lia. It is a day of revel that means ab­so­lutely noth­ing un­less an in­di­vid­ual — through sheer fan­dom or deep vested in­ter­est — re­ally cares about the out­come.

Many Amer­i­cans don’t. They just know it is a rare change of pace for com­mu­nal in­ter­face, kind of like a ma­jor snow­storm. And, like Chauncey Gar­diner, they like to watch — even the com­mer­cials.

It is a day when the TV na­tion does not want to be chal­lenged, or re­minded, or di­vided, be­yond whodat or Hoosier daddy!

As Frank Zappa said, ‘‘Amer­ica drinks, and goes home.’’

But now, thanks to CBS, Fo­cus on the Fam­ily and the ap­par­ent pros­e­ly­tiz­ing of Tim Te­bow and fam­ily, the tele­cast of Su­per Bowl XLIV will ever-so-briefly be­come a plat­form for a tem­per­ing thud of faith-based ad­vo­cacy.

The legacy of the CBS de­ci­sion will be a dicey one to the NFL and all fu­ture sports pro­gram­ming.

When does an ad of moral ad­vo­cacy — how­ever ‘‘re­spon­si­bly pro­duced’’ — be­come in­ap­pro­pri­ate for a net­work and its sports part­ners?

There is no Solomo­nian — or even McLuha­nian — an­swer. There are only in­terim con­clu­sions:

(1) CBS must be des­per­ate to sell out re­main­ing ad in­ven­tory for SB XLIV;

(2) Fo­cus on the Fam­ily must have a lot of tax-ex­empt dol­lars to fling around;

(3) Maybe Jay Leno is be­hind all of this.

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer David Milch, cre­ator of ‘‘NYPD Blue’’ and ‘‘Dead­wood,’’ is close to a deal with HBO for a new se­ries pi­lot fo­cus­ing on the back­stage ‘‘busi­ness’’ of thor­ough­bred horse racing.

The show — work­ing ti­tle: ‘‘Luck’’ — could de­but be­fore the end of the year, ac­cord­ing to Web in­sid­ers. The lead char­ac­ter is Ace Bern­stein, ‘‘a guy versed in all the per­mu­ta­tions of fi­nance, il­licit and oth­er­wise,’’ ac­cord­ing to Milch.

Milch is no stranger to the game — he co-owned 1992 Breed­ers Cup Ju­ve­nile win­ner Gilded Time and took all the car­rots with 2001 BC Mile champ Val Royal.

Chicago na­tive Michael Mann (‘‘Ali,’’ ‘‘Pub­lic En­e­mies,’’ et al.) is in talks to di­rect the pi­lot. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens also is likely to be in­volved.

‘‘I’ve joked that if I can make $25 mil­lion on this show, I’ll be even on re­search ex­penses,’’ Milch, a long­time horse­player, told Hol­ly­wood trades. He hopes to shoot the pi­lot at Santa Anita in April.

If Milch is se­ri­ous about ex­panded re­search, he’s also wel­come to sign on for per­sonal tours of Pony’s Place down at 35th and South Laramie — across from Hawthorne’s west gate — and out at Mur­phy’s in the shadow of Arlington Park. Pass­word at both is ‘‘Ju­vie D.’’

The Cubs and fad­ing WGN-AM (720) a for­ever thing? Seems more like 11 p.m. on the Ti­tanic right now and the Rick­etts fam­ily has plenty of lifeboats. . . . Brent Mus­burger, thank­fully, re­turns to Big Ten men’s bas­ket­ball play-by-play tonight when he works the Wis­con­sin-Pur­due game along­side Steve Lavin (6, ESPN).

Gar­boesque Bulls chief John Pax­son should shake his Krau­seian cob­webs and work a Fe­bru­ary game or two as sec­ond an­a­lyst on Com­cast SportsNet and WMVP-AM (1000). He not only would pro­vide uniquely ex­pert in­sight but also might help remix the chemistrie­s be­tween Neil Funk and Stacey King on TV and Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wen­ning­ton on ra­dio.

In­ter­na­tional me­dia are re­port­ing that Bri­tish odds­maker William Hill has pushed the fig­ures on Tiger Woods to­ward the like­li­hood he will play in the Mas­ters. The Hill line moved from 4-6 to 1-4 with Tiger at 5-2 to win at Au­gusta and 33-1 to sweep all four ma­jors this year. . . . Scour­proof John Cali­pari, col­lege bas­ket­ball’s Exxon Valdez, ac­tu­ally used the full-con­so­nant ‘‘j.o.’’ dur­ing an in­ter­view on ESPN this week. And he wasn’t re­fer­ring to him­self or Dig­ger Phelps.

WMAQ-Chan­nel 5’s Mike Adamle, who prom­ises he’ll look 37 one of th­ese days, is con­tem­plat­ing yet an­other Iron­man triathlon. The Won­der ’Cat has com­pleted the gru­el­ing tri­fecta to mark ma­jor birthdays. . . . Com­cast SportsNet will salute un­sink­able SunTimes­man Lacy J. Banks at 10:30 p.m. Feb. 8 dur­ing a month­long trib­ute to prom­i­nent African Amer­i­cans on the lo­cal sportscape.

ABC late-night schmocker Jimmy Kimmel, not­ing the wide­spread com­pany that ac­com­pa­nied the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers to the White House, quipped: ‘‘ La­mar Odom brought his new wife, Khloe Kar­dashian. Let’s work out the pa­per trail on this: Kim Kar­dashian makes a sex tape, be­comes fa­mous and gets a re­al­ity show. Some­how this leads to her sis­ter go­ing to the White House to shake the pres­i­dent’s hand. It re­ally is the fairy-tale story of our gen­er­a­tion.’’ . . . TNT’s Charles Barkley, on gods and odds: ‘‘Two peo­ple are un­de­feated — Fa­ther Time and that black­jack ta­ble.’’

LYNNE SLADKY~AP

Florida quar­ter­back Tim Te­bow and his fam­ily will be pros­e­ly­tiz­ing dur­ing a 30-sec­ond com­mer­cial dur­ing the Su­per Bowl for “Fo­cus on the Fam­ily,’’ a con­ser­va­tive, tax-ex­empt Chris­tian ad­vo­cacy group.

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