Millions of TV viewers have already seen the latest video innovation, but millions more will get a look at it when CBS Sports televises the Super Bowl on Jan. 24. The network's new toy is a ''chalkboard,'' which allows pro football analysts to circle players, draw routes, and diagram plays right over the instant replay. Used sparingly and by someone who can communicate what is happening, the tool can be very effective.
The chalkboard made its debut two weeks ago during the San Francisco-New York Giants playoff game, when analyst John Madden was quite successful in giving viewers a better understanding of why certain plays worked. Last week, another ex-pro coach, Hank Stram, handled the assignment for the 49ers-Cowboys game. Madden will be back X-ing and O-ing again for the Super Bowl.
Some may call this a gimmick, but CBS realizes its potential staying power and is reportedly trying to obtain exclusive rights to the technology.
The main advantage of the chalkboard concept is that it provides fans with the ''big picture.'' Normally TV focuses its attention on the ball, or zeroes in on one player during a replay. But the ''chalkboard'' takes a more panoramic view, giving viewers a chance to learn how players coordinate their efforts all over the field.
Application to other sports, particularly to basketball, where casual fans are often confused by the constant movement, is sure to follow.