Press Tour: Super Bowl 2014 contingency plan, weather woes

FOX is already hyping Super Bowl XLVIII as “the coldest and boldest Super Bowl ever,” and concerns over weather dominated the network’s Super Bowl panel at the 2014 TCA Winter press tour.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with the league going over contingency plans,” Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks says. “We had three games this year delayed on FOX because of weather. [That said,] it’s not like football isn’t played in the cold. We were just in Green Bay and it was three degrees.”

“We’re prepared along with the league, because of health and safety concerns, to find the best possible time, even the best possible day, to get the game played,” Shanks adds.

Best possible day? Yes, there’s still the possibility that 2014 may not have a Super Bowl Sunday, but a Super Bowl Monday or even Super Bowl Saturday instead.

“It’s going to be a decision based on health and safety,” Shanks explains, saying that the league, meteorologists and the New York and New Jersey governors will all be involved. “Does the league believe the game can be played on Monday? Would it be better to play on Saturday? There are also multiple options for Sunday: you can move the game a little later if roads and tunnels and bridges need to be cleared, you can move the game a little earlier. I think [the decision] will be made as late as possible but still try to give enough people enough time to plan.”

While Shanks fielded the bulk of weather-related questions, the other panelists — on-air talent Curt Menefee, Howie Long and Erin Andrews — did their best to deflect any concerns.

“I think it’s more of a media driven story,” Menefee says. “It’s going to be cold. The 140 million people who are sitting at home? They’re comfortable.”

“If I’m a player, do I want to be a part of winning a Super Bowl in a special unique environment like that? Yeah, I do,” adds Long.

Andrews agrees, and notes the players will have time to prepare for any conditions. “Those guys are going to be out there a week before the game so they’re going to get to deal with the elements.”

“I just want to make sure that Bruno Mars is warm,” Long jokes about the game’s Half Time Show co-headliner. “That’s a concern for me.”

For many football fans, all the fuss about weather probably sounds silly (barring the possibility that serious conditions, like a blizzard, could delay the game). “The NFL shouldn’t be apologizing for a cold weather Super Bowl,” Shanks says. “Football is a cold weather sport. We should embrace it. Hopefully this one goes off great.”

Other highlights from the Super Bowl press tour panel:

– Shanks responded to criticism that New York is heavily featured in the network’s game promos even though MetLife Stadium is actually in New Jersey. “We have events during the week from New Jersey,” Shanks says. “We’re not hiding the fact that it’s in New Jersey. I think most people recognize that the area is New York. We work with the host committee to make sure New Jersey is equally represented.” He also notes that “using Times Square as the backdrop is going to be pretty appealing to viewers” and that “starting Wednesday before the Super Bowl, 12 blocks of Broadway will be shut down” for several days of pre-game festivities.

– None of the panelists were willing to predict which teams will wind up in the big game, but Menefee says there’s reason to be excited no matter who wins on Sunday: “When you look at the match-ups, no matter who wins you’re gonna wind up with a match-up of a classic old school quarterback against this new generation. There will be a lot of talk about whether this is the passing of the guard or the old guys prove themselves.”

– Shanks also addressed the status of the Fox Sports 1 and the opportunity to give viewers a new impression of the network with a series of big ticket events coming up. “We look at Super Bowl week, speed weeks and the start of baseball season as a month that starts the next phase of live events on Fox Sports 1,” Shanks says. “Because we’re the rights holder for the game we have unprecedented access. We’re gonna spend more time with the team, more time with the coaches, we’re gonna cover things like media day, we’ll have presence in Times Square that other networks won’t have. It’s a chance for us to show off solid coverage. We are the network of the Super Bowl all week long. It’s not a relaunch, it’s the next phase we had planned.”

– Shanks promises viewers can expect some new technology during the game, but exactly what’s ready could come down to the wire. “We’ll have more 4K cameras than ever before to be able to zoom into things to get that definitive angle,” he promises. “We have something up our sleeve to show something that you can’t see, which is wind. You might be able to see very accurately what the wind is doing to a quarterback or field goal kicker.” Viewers will get a preview of another breakthrough this weekend: “We have this infrared camera to show players’ body temperatures on the field, like the Terminator.”