Next February in New Orleans, Lance Barrow, CBS’ coordinating and lead game producer for the NFL, will helm his third Super Bowl telecast. And if the past is prologue, fans should prepare themselves for the unexpected.
Barrow’s first NFL championship production—Super Bowl XLI in February 2007—featured history on the very first play: The Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, a first for the Super Bowl.
Barrow was going through his normal earlygame routine, getting the starting lineup graphics ready. “All of a sudden, that was thrown out the window,” he recalls.
In the second Super Bowl that Barrow produced, in February 2010, the New Orleans Saints began the second half with a surprise onside kick recovery.
It’s safe to say Barrow will be ready for anything when Feb. 3 rolls around. “You prepare for this all year long,” he says.
Like any star athlete coping with biggame pressure, Barrow says he tries to make the Super Bowl out to be just another game. “You have to approach it [as] just another day of work,” he says, while admitting that it’s nearly impossible to ignore the pageantry. And also like any star athlete, he realizes he is in a position that many would kill to be in, and the significance isn’t lost on him: “You plan [your entire] career to do something like this.”
It’s not until after the opening kickoff (provided it’s not returned for a touchdown) that it becomes a bit more business- as-usual for Barrow. “When you get in the TV truck or when you start actually doing the game, it becomes [just] a football game,” he says.
It’s Barrow’s level-headedness (a byproduct of his having been involved in eight previous Super Bowls in various posts) that gives CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus the peace of mind of knowing the broadcast is in the perfect hands of a guy who never drops the ball.
“I can’t think of anyone who I would have more confi dence in to produce the Super Bowl than Lance Barrow,” McManus says.
CBS is in the early stages of planning its coverage for this season’s Super Bowl—the regular season doesn’t even begin until Sept. 5— but Barrow’s promise is that the camera won’t ever blink. “We will have every possible angle and every situation covered, no matter if it’s in the corner of the end zone, on the sidelines or somewhere in the middle of the field,” he says. And without quite showing his cards at this early date, Barrow at least offers that the XLVII broadcast will include “other little tweaks that probably have never been used before.”
Barrow is a CBS lifer. He has been with the network since 1975, beginning as a spotter/researcher while attending Abilene Christian University. And he has no plans on ever leaving the network. At a suggestion that the turf may be greener elsewhere, he says, “I wouldn’t want to work for anyone else.”
Beyond football, he has also worked on the network’s basketball, NASCAR and Olympics coverage. While he has been coordinating/lead game producer for the network’s NFL coverage since 2004, Barrow has also been running their golf broadcasts since 1997.
“People kind of look at me crazy when I say this, but golf is the toughest sport to do on television,” he says. “Nobody has numbers on their backs, there are no boundaries and no one ever quits playing.” Barrow says the lack of designated stoppages in play also makes cutting to commercials a form of performance art. “You have to understand how to [do it],” he says.
A 10-time Emmy winner, Barrow was honored recently by his alma mater with the creation of the Lance Barrow football film/editing classroom, which will help encourage the next generation of artfully talented sports producers coming out of ACU.
Count McManus as one who appreciates Barrow’s current artwork in production. “It is unusual to find a person who sets the gold standard in two sports, but Lance successfully does just that,” McManus says.
And come next February, he’ll put his stamp on yet another Super Bowl, after first getting lots more practice in through a new season of NFL coverage on CBS. “It’s become bigger than just a football game,” says Barrow of the event. “Everyone has some interest in the Super Bowl.” And everyone will get the chance to see Barrow work his magic from the opening kickoff on—surprises or no.
E-mail comments to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @tim_bays
The television industry's top news stories, analysis and blogs of the day.
Thank you for signing up to Broadcasting & Cable. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.