Blackout Forces NBC to Call an Audible in Orange Bowl

Is this going to be a strange year, or what?

For nearly 15 minutes during the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl telecast, Gayle Gardner did the play-by-play from a studio in New York as Japanese television provided the picture.

According to an NBC spokesman, the trouble started when two of the three power cables supplied by the Orange Bowl burned out at the game site.

In New York, NBC, acting quickly, picked up the Japanese feed. NBC was without a picture for only 18 seconds. But there was no audio.


So Gardner and Paul Maguire took over from New York. There was an eerie silence as they called the action.

Gardner got the score wrong (20-0 instead of 22-0) and it sounded as if she called Gino Torretta Gina Torretta, but all things considered, things worked out OK until NBC got its own feed back by hot-wiring the main production truck to a nearby transformer.

There was also a blackout during halftime of the Orange Bowl. NBC had ESPN football commentator Beano Cook on to talk about who should be the national champion, and as Cook was saying, “Having two national champions last season didn’t hurt anyone,” the picture went out.

Responded Gardner: “Didn’t hurt anyone but Beano.”


The day as a whole showed that there is such a thing as too much football.

Something has to be done about the New Year’s Day logjam. Eight games is at least four too many.

It’s not good for viewers, and it is not good for television sponsors. Up comes a commercial, and zap, the viewer hits the remote control and switches to another game.

For about two hours Wednesday morning, there were four games at the same time. From 10 a.m. on, there was almost always at least two.

All one has to do to make an argument for an orderly playoff system in college football is point to the New Year’s Day mess.

Sponsors should collectively say enough is enough.

Viewers might complain to no avail, but let a few major sponsors threaten to quit advertising on bowl telecasts. Then you’d sure see some changes.

Here’s what can happen when you have so many games going head-to-head.


The viewer watching the Peach Bowl on ESPN probably stays with it until early in the fourth quarter when North Carolina State, holding a 34-17 advantage over East Carolina, intercepts a pass deep in its territory.

It’s now a good time to check out the Cotton Bowl on CBS, the Hall of Fame Bowl on NBC, and the Citrus Bowl on ABC.

If he is lucky, the viewer switches back to the Peach Bowl in time to discover East Carolina has made a comeback and is driving for the winning touchdown. But a key part, if not the entire finish, has been missed.

Not only was the Peach Bowl an outstanding game--it was well worth getting up early to watch--but the major networks could take some pointers from ESPN on how to televise a football game.

The key thing was, the cable network continually provided the basics--score, time remaining, down and yardage, and timeouts remaining.

A graphic with the score and time remaining was put up between almost every play down the stretch.

The major networks give you a lot of graphic information, sometimes too much, but all all too often forget about the basics.

The announcers are as guilty as the graphics people. Giving the score and time remaining seems like such a simple thing.


Maybe more should use Red Barber’s method. Get a three-minute egg timer and give the score before the sand runs out and keep turning turn the egg timer over throughout the game.

ABC’s Keith Jackson is one who could use a reminder to give the score more. This flaw was particularly noticeable during the Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day, when Georgia Tech was driving for the winning touchdown against Stanford. Viewers were never told or shown the score.

On a holiday, people are often busy eating and visiting, and not paying full attention to a game. When they turn their attention back to the game, they would like to know the score.

In blowouts, such as Wednesday’s Rose Bowl game, the score might not be as important, but it’s still nice to know.

Overall, Jackson and partner Bob Griese had an outstanding telecast Wednesday.

Talk about good timing. A few seconds before Mario Bailey’s reception made the score 34-7, Jackson said: “If they punch it in here, it’s your serve, Miami.”

Bailey’s diving grab punctuated Jackson’s comment.

The replay showed Bailey might have bobbled the ball, as Jackson and Griese indicated. But in talking about that, the announcers seemed to miss the picture of the day--Bailey striking the Heisman pose, a la Desmond Howard.

Jackson does have a unique way of saying things.

Early in the Rose Bowl, Washington receiver Orlando McKay was trying to hold onto a pass when he was belted by All-American linebacker Erick Anderson.

Said Jackson: “That’s like trying to brush your teeth on a 12-foot boat and it gets hit by a nine-foot wave.”

Griese got off a pretty good line a little later, after Michigan’s Walter Smith caught a touchdown pass.

Jackson said it looked like Yale Van Dyne was the intended receiver and the ball simply went past him and into Smith’s arms.

Said Griese: “That sometimes happens, but you’d never get a quarterback to admit it.”

Best move of the day was NBC bailing out on the Fiesta Bowl with 6 1/2 minutes left so that the Orange Bowl could start on time, shortly after 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Sugar Bowl on ABC was held up until after 5:30.

CBS had a reporter, Lee Zeidman, at the Rose Bowl to file a live report during halftime of the Cotton Bowl. A classy move, considering the Rose Bowl is an ABC event.

Problem was somebody needed to give Zeidman a geography lesson. He said the “fields” around the Rose Bowl were closed for parking. Brookside golf course is hardly a field.

Also during halftime of the Cotton Bowl, CBS offered some skiing news. Skiing? Sure. Don’t forget CBS has the Winter Olympics next month.

A highlight of the Citrus Bowl was California’s “fumblerooski” play that set up a field goal to make the score 30-14 with 5 1/2 minutes left. Through good camera work, ABC was able to show the play perfectly. In the past, cameramen have been faked out on this play.

After the Citrus Bowl score got to 37-14, Brent Musburger said Clemson needed to make some defensive stops. At that point, the Tigers needed a lot more than that.

Earlier, Musburger, in looking ahead to the Rose Bowl, called Washington’s Steve Emtman Greg Emtman. He later explained he confused Emtman with Michigan offensive lineman Greg Skrepenak, who would be opposing Emtman in the Rose Bowl.

OK, we’ll give him that. But Musburger never did explain why, on Saturday, he called the Raiders’ Ethan Horton Willie Horton. The amazing thing about that mistake was it was in a pre-taped piece.