JOHN MADDEN was maddening at a satellite press conference last week.
You wouldn't think it possible considering Madden's weight, but he did a faster 180 than Jerry Rice, John Elway or John Taylor could do.
Asked by a Denver television columnist if he wasn't rooting for the underdog Broncos to pull out Super Bowl XXIV, Madden's exact words were: "Well, yeah. I mean, I would like to see them rise and surprise everyone."
"I'm an old AFL guy," he said later. "I started when the AFL started and it was the American Football League that gave me an opportunity to get involved in this, and deep down you always like those teams that started that league."
This pro-Denver response seemed a startling admission coming from a man who is about to broadcast a Super Bowl. After all, hometown viewers always accuse play-by-plan men and analysts of favoring the "other" team.
What was more startling was the fact Madden lives in Oakland. He surely was asking for it.
A few minutes later, I let the big fish off the hook.
I asked him if he expected to stay in the Bay Area after that remark. He seemed stunned by the question, so I rephrased it: "Unless I misunderstood, I think you said you were hoping Denver would surprise everybody."
"No, I mean, yeah, I'm hoping they would surprise everyone and give the 49ers a game, yeah," said Madden.
Actually, if Madden can be accused of anything, it is of being pro-NFC. Last week's All-Madden team was overloaded with NFC players because Madden won't pick anyone he hasn't seen personally. He and partner Pat Summerall saw only two AFC teams this season -- Denver and San Diego.
Madden will be working his fourth Super Bowl with Summerall. Since being acknowledged as the league's top analyst, Madden has been getting some criticism. He and Summerall often don't cover the NFL as much as they celebrate it.
Madden said he couldn't care less about the criticism.
"I mean, this is to me, it's a game. It's fun. It should be fun and it should be competitive, and it's fans and it's championships, and being the best in the world at what you are, that's what it is. If that's criticized, I don't care."
For those who do care, let's take our annual look at the ABCs of the Super Bowl, which airs at 5 p.m. on Channel 4.
A is for the Announcers, who will be awful. No, not Madden and Summerall. "The Announcers" is the name of the new Nike ad that features some of the television's best-known sports announcers. Advertising Age already reviewed the spot and said it isn't very good. The magazine added: "Tommy Heinsohn, in particular, is awful." CBS asked Nike to delete the non-CBS announcers originally in the spot. Unfortunately, Heinsohn works for CBS.
B is for Dick Butkus, "The NFL Today" regular. If he has something interesting to say today, it will be more surprising than a Bronco victory.
C is for Commercials, which will cost $700,000 per 30 seconds, which is about what a baseball superstar gets these days. The advance word from Ad Age is that although many of the new spots are clever, they aren't magical.
D is for Mike Ditka, the emotional Chicago Bears coach who will offer halftime analysis.
E is for ESPN, which will present eight consecutive hours of Super Bowl highlights starting at 2:30 this morning, and will repeat the Dream Season championship game at 9 tonight after the Super Bowl ends.
F is for Dan Fouts, who will do a pregame interview with Denver quarterback John Elway. What, you expected Terry Bradshaw? Bradshaw profiles his favorite, San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana. One topic Fouts is certain to bring up: Elway's fish bowl status in Denver, where everyone wants to know what kind of candy he gives out for Halloween. Actually, the original Halloween newspaper story focused on what many celebrities in Denver gave out and not just Elway. A topic Fouts probably won't discuss: The fact Elway's Denver television show at 6:30 p.m. Mondays is third in the ratings to shows with coach Dan Reeves and injured running back Tony Dorsett that run at the same time on rival network affiliates.
G is "Grand Slam," the new CBS series that will be hyped endlessly during the game and is perfect for football fans who love violence. It airs after the game.
H is for the "Hilltop Reunion," the one commercial that is getting pregame raves. It is a nostalgic, sentimental ad reprising the old one proclaiming, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke."
I is for Irv Cross, who will cover the Broncos' locker room.
J is for Jazzed up CBS Sports theme, which we'll hear Pete Fountain play on his clarinet in the animated opening of the pregame show. CBS claims it is terrific.
K is for Curry Kirkpatrick, the clever Sports Illustrated writer who will do a humorous pregame piece on instant replay. Coaches may claim they hate it. But during the syndicated "Road to the Super Bowl," just about every coach who was wired for sound by NFL Films (including Bills coach Marv Levy) quickly begged for replays after a controversial play. CBS -- which blew a critical replay in the Giants' victory over the Broncos in 1987 -- has 15 cameras at the game and should have all the angles covered.
L is for Lucy, one of the "Peanuts" gang who will be saluted at halftime.
M is for Brent Musburger, who will be everywhere -- pregame, halftime, post-game, CBS radio and even as the narrator of Bud Bowl II.
N is for Aaron Neville, who will sing the national anthem.
O is for Pat O'Brien, who will do a feature from Joe Montana's hometown of New Eagle, Pa.
P is for Pat Summerall, who hopefully will raise his enthusiasm level even though the Giants didn't make the title game.
Q is for the quarterbacks, who will analyze the game for CBS on the pregame show: Fouts, Terry Bradshaw and Kenny Stabler, who all toiled in the AFC. Bradshaw created a stir this week by making remarks critical of Elway. Terry is CBS' answer to NBC's Bob Trumpy, who also frequently talks before he thinks.
R is for Ronnie Harmon, whose DROPPED pass in the Bills-Cleveland game will be included in CBS' pregame summary of the season. If it is still too painful to watch, I thought I'd warn you. CBS also is doing a pregame summary of the 1980s.
S is for the Stadium Club, from where Musburger will host the pregame show.
T is for Paul Tagliabue, the NFL commissioner who will have his eye on the ratings. The Super Bowl usually gets a rating between 42 and 49. Tagliabue's next mission: Running the league's contract negotiations with the networks.
U is for memorable upsets, the subject that Butkus will focus on in a pregame feature.
V is for Lesley Visser, the lone female in CBS' crew, who will do a piece on 49er Pierce Holt, a former mechanic who is blind in one eye.
W is for WBEN radio, which will provide coverage of the game with Jack Buck and Hank Stram.
X is for excess, which is what the Super Bowl is all about.
Y is what you'll be asking yourself if you watch the two-hour CBS pregame show starting at 3 p.m.
Z is for the Nissan Turbo Z, which is featured in a controversial ad by filmmaker Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner"). Critics say it glorifies speed. So do the 49ers, who should win, 35-27.