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Call of Fame


               Cris Collinsworth calls his third Super Bowl Sunday.

PHOENIX, Ariz. - There was an esoteric production meeting not too long ago when Cris Collinsworth asked Patriots head coach Bill Belichick about Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork's technique of jamming his hands into an offensive lineman at just the right instant to render him useless.

Belichick stood up and for a good 20 minutes he took Collinsworth's arms and torso and twisted him through every hand placement out of a coaching clinic. It got to the point where Belichick was asking him to push him so he could show him how the hands affected balance and strength.

 "I'm thinking this is the greatest thing I've ever been a part of," Collinsworth recalled this week as he prepared to call his third Super Bowl. "You know how much that made it into the broadcast? Zero. It was so full of detail; you can't do it in 15 seconds. I would love to do it in 15 seconds. You can't."

That's why Collinsworth wins Emmys announcing the NFL.  He's nearing 20, which means he has more than the number of catches he had in his eighth and last season with the Bengals. Which would be 13 in the 1988 season that ended at the Super Bowl.

He doesn't saturate you with what he knows. He knows not to saturate you. Especially in Sunday night's Super Bowl (6:30-Cincinnati's Channel 5) between the defending champion Seahawks and the defensive Patriots.

"This is a big party. Grandma and little sis and people who don't watch football games, they watch the Super Bowl," Collinsworth said. "You want to be all inclusive. You want to do everything for everybody."

It's why Al Michaels counts Collinsworth as one of his favorite partners. Michaels, the ageless play-by-play man who stretches back to the NFL of Howard Cosell, has had more partners than Roger Goodell, and has found the same easy, cup-of-coffee rapport he had with John Madden and Ken Dryden. He's been lucky to avoid the ex-jock syndrome.

"Howard was a completely different cat. I don't think he got along with any partner at any time," Michaels said. "Ex jocks are guys that come in and don't want to work at the business. The whole thing is three technique tackle, double a gap blitz, they're talking to 12 people. But you work with guys like Collinsworth, Madden, and Dryden, they know how to communicate."

Collinsworth labored in law school, as did Dryden, the legendary Montreal goaltender. If Dryden could have been prime minister of Canada, Collinsworth could have been governor of Florida or Kentucky.

"I think part of it might be we heard each other so much. We kind of knew what our styles were," Michaels said. "We became really good friends even before we went on the air. I've heard him for years, he's heard me for years…When he first starts out, we just let it flow. This rhythm I don't know I can only liken it to a couple of singers. You don't want to do the lyrics over each other. Sometimes you want them to just blend and it happens."

If it sounds sometimes like Michaels and Collinsworth are trading stories on the phone, it's because they do. You won't find two better storytellers on the NFL circuit.

Just the other week Michaels caught good friend Don Rickles' act in Los Angeles and the next day he had to call Collinsworth and tell him the comedian's 10 best lines from the show. So Michaels launches into the best one, when a young star-struck Rickles asked Frank Sinatra to come over to his dinner table so he could impress his date and when Sinatra did, Rickles barked, 'Not now Frank, not now."

But it's time for Collinsworth to display his down-home mix of honesty and humor that made him one of the most popular Bengals ever. He is the successor to Cosell's unvarnished Tell-It-Like-It-Is calls before they became "takes." Whenever he starts going on a riff, it makes you long for those days when NFL players didn't talk in the same homogenized public relations sound bites.

He won't avoid DeflateGate, but he won't pump a lot of air into it, either.

"We've got an obligation to cover it. I don't know what the heck we can possibly say about it that hasn't been said," Collinsworth said. "We are sort of judge and jury in a lot of ways. Is that fair? Not always. But we're going to get the final word in front of the most people. I always try to be fair."

Of all things, Collinsworth got accused of sucking up to the NFL a few days ago when he said Goodell hasn't done anything that made him question his character. He knew he was going to take the shot before he delivered it.

"I spent five years in law school so I'm a big due process guy. I think Roger Goodell is a big due process guy after what he's gone through this year," Collinsworth said. "He was accused of lying. I don't know about you guys, but I'd rather be accused of robbing a bank. If you're going to tell me Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are lying and cheating, you better be able to back it up.

"I'm not going there and I want to see some pretty hard proof that's the case. If it is, the consequences are going to be harsh and they should be because this game has to be about integrity and honesty in dealing between these 32 teams. I think the commissioner will do his job if it comes to that."

Nerves? There were more nerves before he played in Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XXII. He makes announcing a Super Bowl sound like he won one of's endless road of fantasy trips.

"Once you're there and the game starts, I look around and say, 'Where would you rather be than right here?' People would have to pay $1 million for my seat in the stadium," Collinsworth said. "I've got my own bathroom, my own catering. I get Al Michaels to hang out with. Every replay is at my disposal when I want it. It's a blessed life to be able to do that."

And he can say it in 15 seconds.

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