Super Bowl XIX versus Inauguration L. . . .

“The city of Washington knows disappointment on a large scale this morning,” Phyllis George said Monday in her new role as co-anchor of “The CBS Morning News.”

George was referring to the brutal cold that forced President Reagan’s public oath-taking inside and the scratching of the traditional inauguration parade.

She was in Washington herself on her biggest assignment for CBS since last year’s Super Bowl. And believe you me, she could tell those Washingtonians something about disappointment.

No wonder George had seemed a little deflated Friday on “The CBS Morning News.”

She was interviewing Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach by satellite. They were in San Francisco for Sunday’s Super Bowl. She was in New York.


“Wish we could be out there with you,” George said, “but we’ve got to go to the inauguration.”

Later, George’s consoling co-anchor, Bill Kurtis, assured her that “the inauguration is fun, too.” George seemed unconvinced. “Really?” she replied, half-heartedly.

Aw, shucks!

Where are this nation’s priorities? You’d think that we’d amend the Constitution to ensure that the inauguration would not again interfere with or detract from the Super Bowl.

Here’s an idea.

Reagan’s public inauguration should have been the designated half-time entertainment at the Super Bowl in a ceremony produced by David Wolper.

He should have been sworn in by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on the 50-yard line in Stanford Stadium before the estimated 120 million TV viewers watching the San Francisco 49ers clobber the Miami Dolphins. That would have made Ronald Reagan the day’s most discussed figure. After Joe Montana and Dan Marino.

There was a “semi-private-but-televised” official swearing-in Sunday that met the constitutional mandate of a Jan. 20 presidential oath. Other Presidents have moved the public rite to Monday when Jan. 20 has fallen on a Sunday. And the Reagan White House, also wanting no conflict with the Super Bowl, did the same.

Why not instead avoid a conflict by rescheduling the Super Bowl? Get serious! Are you un-American or something?

As it was, Sunday became a boffo media day for the President. Though in Washington, he still was part of the Super Bowl, thanks to the wonder of satellite transmission.

And the irony is that far fewer Americans saw his public inauguration inside the Capitol Rotunda on Monday than saw him flip the coin to start Sunday’s Super Bowl and afterward stiffly congratulate winning coach Bill Walsh.

For the media, if not most Americans, the toast of this month has been the Super Bowl on ABC--not the inauguration.

Frank Gifford began ABC’s six-hour Super Bowl marathon by sniffing at “elitist critics” who “in their predictable fashion” had questioned the enormity of the Super Bowl promotion. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

On ABC’s two-hour pregame show, Jeff Greenfield opened a piece on media hoopla by wondering, “Just what is all this fuss about?” He concluded that “being here” for the game, not the game itself, was the real event.

Don’t tell that to ABC, which went Super Bowling for Dollars on Sunday. It paid $15 million for telecast rights and, Greenfield said, would gross $30 million from commercials run during the six hours.

And that doesn’t include the possible promotional benefit from ABC’s repeatedly hyping its programs Sunday. The same tactic failed to help most of the new ABC series heavily promoted during the Summer Olympics. They bombed.

Yet ABC threw in 38 program promos during its game, pregame and postgame coverage, most of them in behalf of “MacGruder and Loud” and “Jennings.”

The premiere of Aaron Spelling’s awful new “MacGruder and Loud"--a series about husband-and-wife police who are “cops by day, lovers at night"--was the lucky recipient of a whopper Super Bowl lead-in Sunday, before settling into its regular 9 p.m. Tuesday time period.

Hoping to shore up “World News Tonight,” meanwhile, ABC not only continually celebrated anchorman Peter Jennings, but gave him added exposure in an expanded news cut-in during the pregame show.

Promos aside, all six hours of ABC coverage were first-rate.

With the exception of half a dozen end-zone-view shots near the end of the first half, ABC’s cameras were flawless under Chet Forte’s direction. And led by Gifford, the entire broadcast team was very good. That included the addition of Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann to the booth, even though he did take 50 words to say what Don Meredith said in 10.

Here’s one vote, though, for scrapping ABC’s telestrator gizmo for dissecting touchdowns. It was yet another example of technology overkill, allowing Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry to complicate the uncomplicated.

After the game, Jim Lampley astutely avoided the dopey babble that usually comes with locker-room interviews, although Reagan’s chat with Walsh was almost comically stilted. It appeared that the President had taken frozen smile lessons from Mary Lou Retton.

Perhaps his mind was on Monday’s instant replay of Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony, which was covered live by the big three networks and CNN. (CNN stayed with the inauguration the longest, followed by NBC.)

Canceling the outdoor ceremony and parade cut into the plans of TV. How cold was it? So cold that the massive window overlooking the Capitol in the CBS studio fogged up.

Television used the President’s inaugural speech as an opportunity to review Reagan’s first term and to forecast what’s ahead. The words were routine with the exception of Ted Koppel’s splendid review of our Iranian hostages being freed almost simultaneously with Reagan’s first inauguration.

The pictures weren’t routine, though, as Reagan continued making videotape history. It did seem that given this “confluence of sports, television and politics,” as NBC’s Tom Brokaw put it, Tom Landry should have been there diagramming the event with the ABC telestrator and Jim Lampley there to interview the President.

See, Phyllis, inaugurations aren’t so bad after all.