During his first Super Bowl in the broadcast booth, Tony Romo hopes to communicate the scale of the occasion to viewers.

By Jacob Feldman
January 11, 2019

NEW YORK — Don’t expect a different Tony Romo on Super Bowl Sunday. An excitable “football nerd” with a knack for clairvoyance, the same Romo viewers have largely enjoyed over two seasons at CBS will call Super Bowl LIII, his first, on Feb. 3.

“We’ve been talking about it for two years,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “I’ve tried to emphasize for them that this is just another football game. Listen, there’s a lot more hype. There are a lot more viewers. But it’s still a football game.”

If Romo has mellowed out at all during his sophomore season working with Jim Nantz, it hasn’t been by edict. “You’ll see stuff on social media like, ‘Tony is not as excited as he used to be,’ or ‘CBS has pulled him back,’” lead producer Jim Rikhoff said. “It’s never that. We never do that. It’s basically, we let him go.” And that plan will be the same as millions of fans get their first taste of the former Cowboys QB as a game analyst.

“The Super Bowl brings in viewers who don’t always watch football and I think people are going to love him because he’s relatable to everybody,” Rikhoff said. “For the hardcore football fan who loves X’s and O’s, he’s great at that. But he’s also great at breaking down the game and articulating it in a way a casual viewer would enjoy.”

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Before Nantz hosted his first Super Bowl pregame broadcast back in 2001, “I thought about it for months leading into it,” he said, “Like, that day, Oh what am I going to feel like? What is it going to be like?” But he’s not worried about Romo’s debut. “Working with Tony it feels so easy and natural,” he said. “We’re just going to call a game. We’ll laugh or flub or whatever. We’ll laugh it off and keep going on. I feel very comfortable.”

“I don’t want to differentiate too much from what we’ve been doing every single week,” Nantz added.

This is where, during a broadcast, Romo might interject to add his perspective. “I just want people to know how important that day is to all of these people,” he said Thursday. “I can promise you every wife, dad, mother, brother, sister, best friends—they are dying with every play, far more than any viewer can imagine.”

While game analysts are known for providing schematic insight, Romo said he hopes to highlight players’ emotions and nerves in addition to crossing routes and safety blitzes. “I want people to understand this is it,” he said. “This is the game of their life.”

And then it would be Nantz’s job to expand on that before bringing us back to the action.

“It applies, too, to us in the booth,” he said. “These are great events that define a career…. I’ve never looked forward to it more.”

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