THE WINTER OLYMPICS; NFL FILMS

February 1, 2010

Get out your snow boards and skis. Brush up on your half-pipe and curling. The Winter Olympics are coming. Bruce Jenkins had this to say in the SF
Chronicle,

 “The Winter Olympics are coming, and thanks to NBC, you’ll be preparing the same message as always for your kids: We’ll tell you all about it in the morning.
You’d think that because we’re in the same time zone as Vancouver, we’d have that ever-so-rare privilege of enjoying Olympic coverage live. But you’d be
wrong, because NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol and his cronies consider us a bunch of idiots.
See, according to NBC, we don’t want to watch the Olympics live. The evidence is right here in this 678-page volume on “demographics” and other material that has no basis in reality. Apparently, we want everything placed into a neat little package in prime time.
There will be some live daytime coverage, but the heart of NBC’s telecasts will be nighttime packages starting at 8 p.m. on weeknights – and that’s East Coast
time. The time slots also apply to West Coast, meaning we get a three-hour delay. Isn’t that special?
Don’t confuse these lamebrained decisions with the actual coverage. NBC brings back its usual top-flight crew with Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Ted Robinson and many other competent broadcasters, including the great Al Michaels, who will anchor the weekend and daytime coverage after a 22-year absence from the Olympics. It’s just that when it comes to actual airtime, Ebersol has spent decades deciding what America wants in the Olympics, and he’s been wrong every time.
First of all, when it comes to really important sporting events, “prime time” starts around 6 p.m., OK? You’re home from work, you made sure the kids
finished their homework, and you’re ready to go; dinner by the TV set. Being forced to wait until 8 p.m. – and actually much later, because NBC invariably
makes you wait hours for the really good stuff – is simply cruel.
Through it all, there’s a bit of good news: NBC expects to lose some $200 million on the Olympics, citing the bleak advertising climate and the massive rights fee. Look for the end of NBC’s reign after the 2012 London games, and with any luck, ESPN will take over – showing everything live. The NBC
broadcasters will be missed; the executive decisions will not.”

Jerry Crowe talked about NFL Film’s camera legend Mark Allan in The LA Times.
“When Scott Norwood’s last-ditch field-goal attempt sailed wide right in the 1991 Super Bowl, cameraman Mark Allan ran onto the field as if he had every
right to be there.

In his mind, he did.

For 18 of the last 21 Super Bowls, Allan has been part of the NFL Films crew that shoots the familiar TV commercial in which a star of the game exclaims,
“I’m going to Disneyland!”

Or, for East Coast viewers, “I’m going to Disney World!”

That’s why Allan was on the field at Tampa Stadium in January 1991, his camera rolling as running back Ottis Anderson of the New York Giants dutifully repeated his lines.

A tap on the shoulder startled him.

“I turn around and it’s Bart Oates, the Giants’ center,” Allan, 63, says from his office in Inverness, Calif., chuckling as he tells the story. “And he says, ‘Get off
the field.’ ”

That’s when Allan finally looked up at the scoreboard clock.

Its lights glowed 0:04.

So, while the Giants took a knee on the final play to wrap up a 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Allan says, “I ran into the end zone and hid behind the
goal post, hoping nobody would see us.”

Fortunately for the San Francisco native, a former San Francisco State baseball player, embarrassing moments such as the one in Tampa have been few and far between.

Working as a freelance cameraman for news shows such as CBS’ “60 Minutes,” NBC’s “Dateline” and ABC’s “20/20,” Allan says he has been shot at, clubbed by police, overcome by tear gas and even kidnapped once.

But getting the “Disney” shot amid what he calls the “organized mayhem” that is the immediate Super Bowl aftermath, Allan notes, can be equally nerve-racking.

“You realize,” he says, “that Disney has already spent millions of dollars to run these spots, so there’s a lot riding on you to get that line. A lot can go wrong.
There’s a lot of responsibility, so when you’ve done it, it’s a proud feeling — and a relief.”

One of Allan’s favorite spots featured former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, who capped his Hall of Fame career with Super Bowl victories in his last two seasons.

But getting the shot, Allan says, required the usual tenacity and an assist from Elway’s backup, Bubby Brister, and Allan’s wife, writer-producer Susan
Giacomini Allan.

“We ended up in this crush,” Allan says, describing a postgame scene that he says is not uncommon. “Elway’s back is to us. Brister’s right behind him, kind of guarding him. My wife is next in line and then there’s me, fourth — with the camera.”

In such a tightly packed situation, Allan notes, “It’s almost like you’re moved along by the crowd, not by your own feet.”

Still, his wife caught Brister.

“She says to him, ‘We’re doing the Disney spot; we’ve got to get John!’ ” Allan says, laughing. “And at that point, Brister becomes crowd control for us. He
starts throwing photographers out of the way, getting John’s attention.

“So John is moving, his torso is turned 90 degrees to us, confetti’s in the air and the producer starts throwing him the line. That was one of the best-looking ones we ever did because it was spontaneous and all the confetti was flying.”

The idea for the commercials, which have been parodied even in Disney films, was hatched about 25 years ago, Disney executive Kevin Young says. He says Jane Eisner, wife of former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, pitched it to her husband after watching a news conference in which astronaut Sally Ride was asked what she planned to do next after returning from space.

“Take my daughter to Disney World,” she said.

The debut spot, in 1987, featured Giants quarterback Phil Simms. Troy Aikman, Jerry Rice and Tom Brady are among those who have pitched the familiar line since, as are coaches Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy. Disney makes the selection.

Stars from other sports also have been featured intermittently, Michael Jordan and Mark McGwire among them, but only the Super Bowl spot has endured as an annual presence.

Disney hires NFL Films to shoot it, and NFL Films usually adds Allan to its crew. His first spot, in 1989, featured Joe Montana.

“He’s the pit bull of camera guys,” Young, the Disney executive, says of the burly, bearded Allan. “You’ve got a thousand media guys going after one guy at the end of the game, so it’s pretty much a mosh pit, and if there’s anybody you’d want in a mosh pit, it’s Mark Allan. He’s so good and he’s so tenacious.”

NFL Films executive Kennie Smith describes Allan as “somebody who’s good under pressure and can work and focus and get his job done when everything
around him is total chaos.”

And, she adds, “He’s got a really good, creative eye as well.”

Allan, though, won’t be in Miami this Sunday, even if his son Stephen will be — shooting game action for NFL Films.

Allan’s wife, a cancer survivor, is running a half-marathon in Golden Gate Park, and he’ll be there to support her.

“We’ll go to lunch after, then a museum, and there won’t be anybody there,” he says. “It’ll be great. This has happened only a few times, and I’m going to take
full advantage of it.”

This year, let somebody else watch the clock.”

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