Q/A with CBS’ producer for Super Bowl: Most football games don’t have Beyonce performing at halftime

Lance Barrow said I helped give him his wake-up call about being the main man for a Super Bowl.

Barrow’s first spin as the coordinating producer for the Super Bowl came in 2007 for the Indianapolis-Chicago game. During a CBS media gathering in Miami, he found himself sitting on a dais with all the network’s heavy hitters such as Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Dan Marino, James Brown, Boomer Esiason, etc..

“I figure the producer never gets asked anything,” Barrow said. “I’m thinking, ‘How many stone crabs am I going to order tonight?'”

Turns out Barrow was wrong.

“All of sudden, you ask me, ‘How does the Super Bowl compare to doing the Masters?’ Then (somebody else) asks me a question. I came up to you guys later and said, ‘What was that all about?'”

It’s about the Super Bowl, Lance. It’s about being in charge of a broadcast that will feature 62 cameras at the Superdome in New Orleans. It’s about being the man responsible if one of those 62 cameras fails to catch the right angle for a pivotal play.

Not only is the Super Bowl the most viewed event in sports, it also is the most scrutinized. Any mistake, even a blip, gets magnified a thousand-fold.

Barrow is well aware of what he will be walking into Sunday. This will be his third Super Bowl as CBS’ coordinating producer. It will be his 11th overall, dating back to when he was Pat Summerall’s spotter for Super Bowl XII in 1978.

In a Q/A, Barrow talks about the pressure and expectations and how he feels about the reviews as he prepares for the big game Sunday.

You did your first Super Bowl in 1978. What stands out as the major changes in doing the game today.

Obviously, everything is bigger. Not only the game, but everything around the game. You have more equipment, more personnel.  Most football games don’t have Beyonce performing at halftime.

You know it’s the Super Bowl. Nobody has to tell you that.

Is there any extra pressure for you as a producer? You know so many more people are watching and critiquing.

You know you’re doing this huge game that hundreds of millions of people are watching around the world. But it’s a football game. What you’re doing is a football game.

I’m not really about that nervous about it. Sure, there are some nerves. If you didn’t have any, something must be wrong with you.

You don’t want the largeness to overwhelm you. You’ve still got to go out and perform, just like the teams. You don’t want to get too nervous. Otherwise, you won’t be able to perform.

I got into this business to do the biggest events, the most important events that we have at CBS Sports. I’ve been very fortunate that I have been chosen to do these huge events.

I love it. I can’t wait for it. After I did the first one (in 2007), someone said, ‘Aren’t you glad it’s over with? I said, ‘No, I wish we could do it again next week.’

You have so many cameras and gadgets to play with. Do you have to be careful not to overuse them?

You have to be really careful. You have to make sure they don’t get in the way of the broadcast. They are there to enhance the broadcast, not to take away from the broadcast.

Even with 62 cameras, do you ever have any fears of one of the cameras missing a crucial angle on a play?

I expect us to get every angle. My boss (CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus) expects us to get every angle. We expect that every week. We expect everyone to perform at a top level. We’re the No. 1 crew at CBS Sports. We’ve been given this opportunity to produce the Super Bowl.

I don’t go into the game worrying if we’re going to have the right replay. I expect it to happen.

During the 2010 Super Bowl, New Orleans coach Sean Payton opened the second half with an onside kick. It caught Indianapolis by surprise. Did it catch you by surprise? Explain what went into covering that play.

Nobody told us they were about to do an onside kick. Sean Payton had mentioned to us in our meeting, ‘Bill Parcels said you’ve got to lay it on the line for a big game.’ Payton said, ‘Don’t be shocked if I do an onside kick.’ It could have been the first kick of the game or the last. Nobody is calling us and saying, ‘Hey, by the way, get ready, we’re going to do an onside kick.’

We were as surprised as Indianapolis was. But (director) Mike Arnold had the Skycam on, and this is where teamwork comes into play and being prepared for that moment. I always think about the great line in the movie, Tin Cup (in which Barrow, Nantz and other CBS staffers had roles). Kevin Coster says, ‘You could define the moment, or the moment defines you.’

CBS Sports defined that moment. We had the Skycam on. Instead of going away to follow the kick (like a sideline camera), the Skycam followed the ball. When it came time, we had the right replays. Then you start thinking about not only who covered it, but did it go 10 yards?

You have 40-50 replay devices. You’ve got to make sure you pick the four or five replays that show the right one. That’s what we did.

Do you worry about the reviews? Do you read them?

I don’t worry about too much about them. Sure, I’m interested in what they have to say. It’s human nature. You want to be liked. But at the same time, I only can produce the game and do the coverage the way we think we should do it.

It’s live television. It’s not a perfect science. I have in my mind what (legendary golf producer and Barrow’s mentor) Frank Chirkinian said once in an interview: ‘If I ever produce a perfect show or game, I will turn around and walk away from this business because I never will be able to accomplish it again.’

It took me a few years to realize that. He’s right. I said to our crew before the the AFC title game: ‘Tom Brady or Joe Flacco might throw an interception, but that doesn’t mean they won’t wind up with five touchdowns.’ It’s the same thing with us. It’s 3 1/2 hours. It’s beyond split-second decisions that are being made. You hope you make the right moves.

When it comes to the Super Bowl, I always joke that I’ll be on a plane at 6 on Monday morning, going off to Pebble Beach (to produce CBS’ coverage of  the AT&T National Pro-Am). By Monday afternoon, I’ll have a golf meeting. Less than 24 hours after you’ve done a Super Bowl, you’re on to something else. That’s the way it is.







One thought on “Q/A with CBS’ producer for Super Bowl: Most football games don’t have Beyonce performing at halftime

  1. I had the great pleasure of working with Lance on a number of projects when CBS was passing through Chicago. Not only did Lance know what he wanted to get done in the editing room, he did it with a calm demeanor and respect for everyone involved in the process. I speak from experience in saying that quality is all too rare in the high pressure world that is sports television. His success could not be more deserved.

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