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Tasker in win-win situation

PASADENA, Calif. -- Steve Tasker has made it to the sidelines of another Super Bowl. This time, the former Buffalo Bill is going to Miami as a CBS sports reporter.

Tony Petitti, executive vice president and executive producer of CBS Sports, said here Thursday night that Tasker is being rewarded for his regular season work as an analyst.

"The role is definitely new for him," said Petitti.

Tasker will do reports for the pregame show, following one of the teams as it leaves its hotel. He'll also be on the sidelines before the game for a potential report. CBS does not use its sideline reporter during games.

"We'll have him down there but our philosophy about how we're going to use him is not going to change," said Petitti. "If there is an injury, we may go down but we're not going to force it."

"He had a good season," added Petitti. "He does a really good job, he's worked real hard at it. Players and coaches like him. Special teams. You like having that perspective there."

Solomon Wilcots, another game analyst, will also be at the hotel and on the sidelines of the other team that qualifies for the Feb. 4 game.

Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports, feels the network can't lose no matter what happens Sunday in the NFC title game between New Orleans and Chicago and the AFC title game between Indianapolis and New England. He notes that the Indy-New England game is a matchup that everyone wanted to see.

"[Tom] Brady versus [Peyton] Manning, this time not in Foxborough but inside the [Indy] dome, which I think has great story lines," said McManus at a news conference here. "On the other side, the NFC, we can't lose, either. New Orleans is in many ways the story of the NFL this year. If they were to make it, it would be a great story. If Chicago made it to Miami that would be great also. From a ratings standpoint, no team probably does better in a Super Bowl than the Bears do."

"And talk about the rematch from the 1986 season, Patriots versus Bears. That story line is great also."

The ideal human interest story line would be Manning and Indianapolis against New Orleans, the city where Manning's father played, the quarterback was raised and that is coming back from Katrina. McManus agreed that the participation of New Orleans would make the game much bigger than a huge sporting event.

"The two story lines coming together -- one which is purely sports, one which is cultural, societal and racial and everything else," said McManus. "The story line is as compelling as you could possibly put together for a sporting event."

Some critics are concerned that focus on post-Katrina New Orleans could come at the expense of the game.

"You just have to intuitively figure out where you're telling enough of the non-NFL, compelling human interest story and when that should stop," said McManus. "But I think we've got a pretty good sense of that."

CBS plans to run a four-hour Super Bowl pregame show, which has become the norm despite the suggestions by critics that the length may make some fans feel nauseated.

"They may be nauseated but they still watch," cracked McManus, before noting there were two reasons for the pregame show's length.

"There's enough to talk about and our sales team can sell it," said McManus.

CBS is planning to use the game to sell more than football. Katie Couric will do the evening news the Friday before the game from Miami and do a feature on the pregame show.

And it also will be selling patriotism. Randy Cross will do a report from Iraq, which he toured with former players last spring.

One thing is certain: Buffalo's football fans will be buying Sunday's games and the Super Bowl in typically high numbers.

Last Sunday, New England's victory over San Diego had about a 28 rating here and Chicago's victory over Seattle had about a 23 rating. On Saturday, Indy's win over Baltimore had about a 19 rating and New Orleans' night victory over Philadelphia was the lowest-rated of the four games with about a 14 rating.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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