Pasadena, Calif. — The Super Bowl is not just the biggest event in football: It is the biggest television event of the year. The top 10 most-watched sports events ever televised are Super Bowls. And of the top 20 rated programs of any kind for all time, eight are Super Bowls. About 120 million of us watch from seats in more than two-thirds of the nation's homes.
The big first for this year's telecast (6 p.m. EST) is live coverage to Italy. Other live or delayed coverage will be beamed virtually everywhere in the world except Africa and the Soviet bloc, including United States military installations.
Besides doubling the number of cameras from seven to 14, and more than tripling the number of video machines from three to 10 - for more instant replays from more angles - CBS's main new angle of coverage will be from overhead.
The ``Slice Airship 1986/7,'' touted by its Pepsi-Cola USA owners as the world's largest and most technically sophisticated airship, carries a more-advanced camera than the one found in the Goodyear blimps of old. The airship hovers more steadily than its predecessors. A special gyro-controlled mount holds a larger, higher- magnification lens for more powerful close-ups of individual plays. It also provides a 270-degree panorama. Only half that range was available before.
``Besides that, and the increased number of cameras, it's really just normal coverage, just like any season game,'' says Boston Neary, a publicist at CBS. This year's new hook for the pregame show with Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder will focus on his prediction for the game's outcome. Viewers will be invited to call a 900 telephone number either to agree or disagree with Snyder. Results of the poll will be announced before kickoff.
Other pregame features include Charles Osgood in Woodbridge, N.J., asking people in the street whether the Giants belong to New Jersey or New York; Pat O'Brien interviewing miners in Georgetown, Colo., about why they like the Broncos; and new CBS morning show host Mariette Hartley narrating a special on football movies.
All this, boosted by two weeks of promotion and a captive, midwinter audience watching during an ideal day-night time period, may make Super Bowl XXI the highest-rated sports broadcast ever. Of course, it will help if the game is close.