Networks want nothing more than to have a Super Bowl. Broadcasters want nothing more than to be given the opportunity to see their names on the call sheet. The NFL's crown jewel is also the crown jewel of pop culture, a remaining visage of shared experience. As such, the presentation is studied and considered from more angles than usual, as the world gazes upon the biggest stage.
With that in mind, we got to thinking about who our preferred guides have been for this experience through the years. Who has made the Super Bowl an even more memorable experience compared to their peers? Who has excelled at their given role?
We endeavored to create the ultimate Super Bowl broadcast across space and time, selecting a play-by-play announcer, a booth analyst, sideline reporter, and studio tandem. In order to be eligible, all picks must have worked a game in their given role.
Play-by-play: Dick Enberg
Enberg was by no means the flashiest or most memorable announcer but he may have been the most comfortable. His pacing was incredibly even-keeled and it was a rare treat when you saw him holding the NBC mic flag. With time, it's become clear that his broadcast was one that didn't try to live in a world where the outcome was of great importance. It was just a game, and games were to be enjoyed in a den with a few beers. He brought a certain dignified baseball sentimentality to the job.
Booth analyst: John Madden
There's really no debate here. Even as someone who never realized Madden's brilliance during his heyday, his transformative ability is unrivaled. Madden is a Renaissance Man who would combine with Enberg to create a meandering but entirely informative vibe.
Sideline reporter: Lesley Visser
Visser's first Super Bowl gig came two decades into her network career and it'd be wonderful to see one of the pioneers of the art form get the nod here in this entirely hypothetical scenario.
Studio host: Brent Musburger
The man was ahead of his time, sneaking in subtle allusions to gambling in broadcasts and having a hell of a time doing it. Perhaps no one has been better at setting the stage in the history of sports television. Imagine hearing "you are looking live" at the top of a Super Bowl broadcast. Magic.
Studio analyst: Ahmad Rashad
No one has ever been as cool on television as Ahmad Rashad. Ever. Perhaps the biggest compliment to give here is that I'd feel in great hands with him tackling any of the jobs associated with the telecast. Dude can probably operate a camera like no one's business.
Play-by-play: Pat Summerall
Summerall was the original Tony Romo, only Summerall actually won a title during his nine-year NFL career. Who better to lead this team than that?
With his baritone voice and deliberate pacing, Summerall added drama to a game already rife with it. He was the perfect set-up man for the analyst because he was an analyst, having called four Super Bowls as a color commentator before switching over to the play-by-play side. He presented the trophy at the first Super Bowl and was part of 16 overall broadcasts, one of which as a sideline reporter. That wealth of knowledge combined with his amazing presentation style made him one of the most memorable voices in sports history and there's no better place to start than there.
Booth analyst: John Madden
Madden embodied confidence and fun as a broadcaster. He spoke like a bartender but had the brain of the coach. He was insightful and interesting and always made you laugh because you know he was having as much fun watching the game as you were. That liveliness made him the prefect balance alongside the more straightedged Summerall. They called eight Super Bowls together. As they say, if you can't beat the best, be the best.
Sideline reporter: Pam Oliver
Oliver was the sideline reporter for Summerall and Madden's last Super Bowl together, but I promise that's not why I chose her. Oliver just always came across as an educated straight-shooter during her reports as an NFL sideline reporter. She asked coaches and players strong questions during interviews and provided interesting insights when called upon. That kind of consistency is what I'm looking for down on the field during a game.
Studio host: James Brown
As you probably are aware by this point, the sound of your voice matters to me when it comes to broadcasting and no one has a smoother delivery than Brown. Like a Motown singer, Brown's deep voice engrosses the listener and his clear delivery informs them. He's memorable but also shines as the set-up man rather than the star of the shot.
Studio analyst: Michael Strahan
Speaking of stars, no one has crossed over from the NFL to media like Strahan. He's simultaneously relatable and imposing, possessing the persona of a country boy from Texas and the celebrity of a former superstar player in New York. He's able to balance them both while always being himself. That authenticity and zeal for life make him a great lead analyst.
Play-by-play: Al Michaels
One of the best to ever do play-by-play, Michaels has all the gravitas and broadcasting chops for the big game. He's called the Super Bowl 10 times and has never been overwhelmed by the moment. Even at 76-years-old, he still has his fastball. He can carry a broadcast with the best of them to this day and there is no one better at calling historic moments in sports.
Booth analyst: John Madden
Madden was the best in the business for years and, as you can tell by this list, a fan-favorite for a reason. His confident, everyman style translated so well on television. While he often came across as a lovable goof, he also had the broadcasting acumen and football knowledge to become one of the most crisp color guys in all of sports. Madden was always fun and no one was better at translating the game to the masses.
Sideline reporter: Michele Tafoya
This was probably my toughest selection and I toggled back and forth between Tafoya and Erin Andrews for a while. I picked Tafoya in the end because she embodies what great sideline reporting is all about. She's whip-smart, always mines great information from coaches, her on-field interviews are as good as anyone in the business, and she has worked four Super Bowls to near-perfection.
Studio host: Chris Berman
I know some find Berman's schtick oppressive, but in his heyday the man was a national treasure. He was at home covering football from the studio and his sense of humor and high-energy delivery were exactly what football fans needed after a long day of watching the game. His 31-year run on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown was the stuff of legend. No one would be better leading a studio broadcast of the Super Bowl than Berman.
It's worth noting that Berman worked three Super Bowls as a studio host, and for two of them the men in the booth were (wait for it...) Al Michaels and John Madden. Yeah, I did my research. Why does everyone look so surprised?
Studio analyst: Tom Jackson
I couldn't add Berman without putting his old running buddy as part of the group. It's a tragedy that Jackson only worked the big game one time, at Super Bowl XL. The former three-time All-Pro for the Denver Broncos is as affable as he is knowledgeable. He worked NFL Countdown, NFL Primetime and Sunday NFL Countdown with Berman on ESPN for years and won seven Sports Emmys for his trouble. A Berman-Jackson studio tandem would be perfect for the Super Bowl.
Play-by-Play: Al Michaels
The goal for my booth is to build a brand recognizable to both young and old generations of football fans. Thus, no better way to start than with Michaels, the voice of pivotal football moments for men and women of all ages. He always carries the right emotion for the moment and is, simply put, one of the greatest PBP announcers of all-time. When something historic is happening on the field, as it often does during the Super Bowl, there's nobody I'd want more on the mic than Michaels.
Booth Analyst: Tony Romo
We'll never experience Romo and Michaels in the same booth, which is a shame, because I'd think they would make a great match. Romo is as good an analyst as Michaels' current partner, Cris Collinsworth, with the unbridled energy of a kid watching an exciting game for the first time. That gets on some people's nerves, sure, but it's the Super Bowl. That's how many of us feel. Romo is brilliant at breaking down the game in a simple way, a network's dream for a game that is watched by millions upon millions of non-regular football viewers.
Sideline Reporter: Pat Summerall
Yes, Summerall is obviously more known for his work in the booth alongside John Madden than he is on the sideline. But he was a sideline reporter in the very first Super Bowl back in 1967, so he qualifies for this role. The name recognition would be worth his presence alone, but Summerall would be a great presence on the sideline, a draw for the crowd who long for the days of Madden/Summerall. He'd also be great at this particular job, communicating the information in a concise manner with the football acumen to understand how important each update could be.
Studio Host: Dan Patrick
Let's bring Patrick back to his old days of standard studio hosting. He has a steadying presence that's ideal for a studio show and is one of the more recognizable names of the sports media world to the general public. He may not be the best pure analyst on the market for this job, but he can help drive the narratives and storylines as good as anybody and would even out the slightly frenetic energy of the Romo/Michaels tandem well.
Studio Analyst: Cris Collinsworth
Collinsworth has grown into a quality color guy, but he started out as a studio analyst, most recently back in 2009 alongside, you guessed it, Dan Patrick. Collinsworth will be excellent breaking down how the two teams match up and, like everyone else in this booth, brings a certain brand that will attract casual viewers who are tuning in for their first game of the season. A studio should be able to break down a game in an enjoyable manner for those watching, and the camaraderie with Patrick combined with his skills as an analyst make Collinsworth a quality fit here.
Play-by-play: Pat Summerall
If you're going to bring back John Madden, like most of us did, you need to make him happy. That means Summerall. These two go together like wings and beer. Like football and Sunday. If they aren't clearly the best duo to ever do it, well, they're deservedly the most beloved.
Booth Analyst: John Madden
There is a reason he's a legend. Listening to Madden on Sundays and then every other day of the week playing the game there are just no other voices that sound like football the way that John Maddens and Pat Summeralls do.
Sideline Reporter: Michele Tafoya
There are a few great answers to this question, but when I hear an announcer throw it down to a sideline reporter in an NFL game, I hear the name Michele Tafoya in my mind. She is as synonymous with the sounds of football as Summerall and Madden for me.
Studio Host: Chris Berman
Studio Analyst: Boomer Esiason
This is another one where there are no shortage of excellent choices. Boomer has been talking about sports for decades for a reason. He's good at it. He knows football. He has the pedigree and the experience. He's just good at his job.