High up in the Superdome in New Orleans this Sunday, Kevin Harlan will be thinking about a guy driving along the interstate in the middle of Kansas. "I want to come up with the right words, the right inflection and the right pacing so when I deliver the call, that guy can see the play in his mind," says Harlan, a CBS and TNT Sports broadcaster, who will call his third Super Bowl on the radio.
While the CBS television coverage of the Ravens and the Niners is expected to draw an audience of more than 110 million, there's a bigger-than-you'd-expect assembly that will rely on Dial Global radio announcers Harlan and Boomer Esiason (who will do double duty as one of the pregame analysts for CBS) to be its eyes for Super Bowl XLVII. Last year's Super Bowl radio broadcast was heard by 23.1 million Americans on terrestrial radio, with additional unmeasured audiences via satellite, mobile, Web and Armed Forces Radio. (For comparison: NBC averaged 21.4 million TV viewers for its Sunday Night Football broadcasts this season, and the average 2012 World Series game drew 12.7 million TV viewers.) This year's game will be broadcast on more than 700 radio stations nationwide, and it's a lifeline for those who are visually impaired or unable to get to a television.
Harlan's task is much more difficult than that of his TV counterpart, Jim Nantz, because calling a football game on radio requires the dissemination of about three times as much information as on television. "On radio you have to set the formation, say who is in the backfield and identify when the ball is snapped so the listener knows the action is about to happen," says Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck, who has called three Super Bowls on television and is the youngest son of Jack Buck, the legendary broadcaster who called a record 17 Super Bowls on radio. "There are plenty of things we take for granted on TV, because you can see it."
The 52-year-old Harlan, son of longtime Packers executive Bob Harlan, says as a child in Green Bay he would fall asleep to the NBA radio calls of Joe Tait (Cavaliers) and the late Jim Durham (Bulls). Those voices inspired him to one day call a national sporting event on radio. "I know TV is where people believe they've reached their success, but I'm kind of the opposite," says Harlan. "Without trying to sound corny, doing the radio broadcast of the Super Bowl is living my dream."