On a day when the American penchant for wretched excess was on full display, the scarcity of words marked FOX's telecast of Super Bowl XLV.
Specifically, the ability of play-by-play man Joe Buck to frame game action using as little verbiage as necessary, while allowing his crew to illustrate the contest with terrific pictures and replays, salvaged the back half of what is annually the longest day in American television.
Buck, FOX's top football and baseball caller, is arguably the best all-around booth talent in the business. The son of late Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck, Joe, at 41 years old, is nearly at his dad's level, with a razor-sharp wit and a keen sense of knowing how to blend modern sensibility with old-school technique.
One of Buck's myriad strengths is his ability to, in television parlance, "lay out" and go silent, letting the moment speak for itself.
For instance, on the Packers' first touchdown, Buck's call was blissfully short: "Rogers. Jordy Nelson. Touchdown, Green Bay!" And then, he kept quiet and let the pictures and the sound of the crowd tell the story. In the fourth quarter, as the Steelers scored to pull to within three, Buck boiled the touchdown call to its essence: "Roethlisberger. To Wallace. Touchdown! What a throw!"
Jack Buck, who made the radio call of Joe Montana's throw to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship Game, would have been proud of his progeny. So, too, would the late legendary former Packers announcer Ray Scott, who also believed in the brevity of words.
And big ups to Buck for making the observation in the third quarter that the Steelers' crowd was turning the game into a road contest for Rodgers, which nicely led color man Troy Aikman to relate how in Super Bowl XXX, the Pittsburgh faithful had turned up the noise on him.
While Buck was brilliant from sign-on, Aikman, like the Steelers, seemed a step slow in the first half, providing little insight into why Pittsburgh played so poorly early. He did piggyback on an idea initially forwarded by sideline reporter Pam Oliver just before kickoff that the Packers, most of them playing in their first Super Bowl, were poised and composed, while the Steelers, many of whom were going for their third Super Bowl title, were rattled.
However, Aikman rebounded in the second half, taking charge midway through the third quarter on a Pittsburgh drive, as he pointed out how Ben Roethlisberger nearly mishandled a snap and how the Packers got their first sack of the night.
And rules analyst Mike Pereira was only called on once, on a third quarter Green Bay challenge. Still, he nailed the moment, reinforcing the idea that his addition was the biggest in sports television this past year.
The FOX production truck did exceptional work all night. Producer Richie Zyontz, in his third Super Bowl, adroitly stayed atop the game's story lines, while finding solid replays.
For instance, there was great work from the truck to find a replay of safety Ryan Clark nearly getting a hand on Aaron Rodgers' second quarter touchdown throw to Greg Jennings, not to mention documenting a no-call for pass interference on Roethlisberger's fourth down pass to Mike Wallace on Pittsburgh's last drive.
And save for a couple of stray shots, director Rich Russo's first Super Bowl telecast for an American audience was largely successful.
FOX's pregame came to life at about 4:30 p.m. ET. Too bad the show came on the air two and a half hours before that.
In fairness to pregame show producer Scott Ackerson, whose weekly one-hour show is palatable, Sunday's four-hour paean to American pop culture and commerce was virtually unwatchable for more than half because of its bloat in the name of money.
The problem is that in order for the televising network to maximize its once-every-three-year chance to make maximum dollars off the game, it has to inflate the pregame show to add in more commercial availabilities.
Of course, that didn't stop FOX from sliding even more ad time in by having its hosts and analysts shill directly for products during the show, like Howie Long's trip to a car dealership or Curt Menefee and a way-too-amped up reporter Jay Glazer outside the pregame set gleefully eating chef Guy Fieri's recipes made with the title-sponsoring cracker.
Some of the pre-game elements worked nicely, like Oliver's profile of Rodgers or the sit-downs with former Packers and Steelers about their Super Bowl memories.
However, the Cowboys chat devolved into a lament over how Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson couldn't keep their egos in check and make their relationship work, which, without Dr. Phil on hand to moderate, made it painful to watch. And where were 49ers' legends like Joe Montana or Jerry Rice to recount their memories?
The discussion of the pending labor dispute between the players and owners was far too shallow and deserved far better than the participants imploring the two sides to make peace.
The less said about the red carpet segments, the better, except to wonder if there is an actor or actress out there who has a pending movie or FOX television show that didn't get an interview with either Maria Menounos, on loan from "Access Hollywood," or Michael Strahan?
In fact, for next year and beyond, it would be refreshing if someone showed up on a Super Bowl week interview on any media outlet who didn't have something to plug. Don't hold your breath.
The pregame show's signature moment was the much ballyhooed showdown between president Obama and FOX News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly, during which O'Reilly displayed that he was far more interested in turning up the heat than attempting to elicit any information from Obama or to get any scoops.
After thanking Obama and his administration for helping two FOX News staffers who faced danger in Egypt, O'Reilly consistently hectored and interrupted the president during their 13-minute chat.
Despite O'Reilly's persistent attempts to provoke him into revealing himself to be a liberal or to admit the failures of his health care reform, Obama stayed cool and above the fray, even inviting his inquisitor to join him at the White House to watch the game.
The saving grace for FOX is unless you're a TV critic or a masochist (and yes, occasionally they are the same thing), no one dared watch the entire 4:30 before kickoff.
Alas, that likely won't stop NBC, next year's Super telecaster, from taking two hours of material and expanding it into four.