It's always tempting to criticize whatever network is broadcasting the Super Bowl for its excesses.

But I won't. Because, if ever there's a time for television to be excessive, it's the Super Bowl.

It wasn't that long ago that television was our national, shared experience. In the days before cable, when we only had three broadcast networks to choose from, you could get 80 million to 100 million people watching something like the miniseries "Roots," and seemingly everybody talked about it the next day.

Everybody is going to be talking about the Super Bowl the day after it airs.

And it's not just the game. We're all going to be talking about the commercials, too.

Can you think of any other event that has us talking about commercials?

So, yeah, NBC's eight-plus hours of pregame coverage on Sunday will be ridiculously excessive. I, for one, have no interest in seeing Al Roker in the "Super Suite," which NBC assures us will be "Celebrity Central."

Maybe Matt Lauer's interview with President Obama will be more interesting. (Let's hope.) And if there's a wardrobe malfunction during Bruce Springsteen's halftime performance, well, I don't even want to think about that.

Network executives in general and NBC's Dick Ebersol in particular are prone to hyperbole. But the chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics was absolutely right when he said, "The Super Bowl is much more than a game. It's become one of our country's biggest holidays."

And perhaps our last shared, national experience.

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST? How long will the Super Bowl be on free, over-the-air TV?

It's not as ridiculous a question as it might seem. Think of how many events have migrated to cable television.

The NBA playoffs and part of the finals. Baseball's league championship series. Beginning in 2011, all of the BCS bowl games (except for the Rose Bowl).

I'm not suggesting this is going to happen anytime soon, but the lure of big money might make it happen eventually.

And not just cable television, how about pay per view? Think about that one for a minute.

Would you pay, say, $50 to see the Super Bowl? How about $40? Maybe $35?

According to Nielsen Media Research, 48.66 million homes tuned in to last year's Super Bowl. Let's say that only 30 million of those homes were willing to pay $35 to see the game — rather conservative numbers.

That would be a one-time payday of $1.05 billion to the NFL. Not million, billion.

Let's be a little less conservative. Let's say 40 million people would pay $50 to see the game.

That would be a one-time payday of $2 billion for the NFL.

How can that not be tempting?

THE FOLKS AT THE MTN. are always telling us what a great job they do producing their football and basketball telecasts, mostly because nobody else will tell them that.

The truth is that the channel did an adequate job with Tuesday's Utah-BYU game. Anytime you can get away without any glaring errors, you're 90 percent of the way there.

Of course, The mtn. is often slow to get replays on the air, if it gets replays on at all.

And there were any number of times when, say, ESPN would have had a shot clock graphic on the screen because, well, that was important information fans could have used. But didn't get.

Still, adequate isn't horrible.


E-mail: [email protected]