June 15, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Super Bowl 2021: How 40-year KCBS vet Jim Hill is prepping

For millions of viewers, the Super Bowl is the biggest and most anticipated sporting event of the year.

But for Jim Hill, the elder statesman of local TV sports coverage, it’s just another Sunday.

That becomes clear when the veteran KCBS sportscaster is asked how many Super Bowls he’s covered in his career.

“Gee, I don’t know,” Hill said in a phone interview earlier this week, after a long pause to consider the question. “I would say it goes back to 1985, maybe? I don’t really count. A lot of people like to go over the experiences they’ve had. I’ve covered large stuff, and I’d rather spend time covering as opposed to counting. I just like to go out and do it.”

Hill’s focus on the work also is apparent when he’s pressed for colorful anecdotes about Super Bowls past and personal favorite memories from the NFL’s championship game. “There was one game with the Dallas Cowboys, and their coach, Jimmy Johnson, was in the locker room, saying, ‘How ’bout them Cowboys?’”

But while Hill is approaching Super Bowl LV with his characteristic workmanlike attitude, he does acknowledge that this year’s edition of the game will be markedly different. The contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first Super Bowl to be staged since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and an emotional spring and summer of protests over police brutality against Black people.

“In football vernacular, an audible has been called,” Hill said. “It will be strange. There will be fewer fans in the stands. We will adjust and make of it the best we can. After what we’ve gone through this year, it will make us appreciate the game more. It takes on added significance because it allows us to relax for a few hours after being pelted morning, noon and night with all the horrible things that have been going on.”

He added, “The players are very aware of the responsibility they have, how high the stakes are. And they are all focused on doing the right thing.”

Hill, who is also KCBS’ sports director, has been at the station for nearly 40 years. A former player with the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers (now the Los Angeles Chargers), he has an obvious rapport and familiarity with many of the athletes he interviews. Many sports stars, in addition to celebrities and other notables, attended the 2006 ceremony where Hill was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Though he is not traveling to the game, which is taking place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla., Hill has been filing preview pieces, and he’ll host a postgame show on Sunday. One story he prepared spotlighted the differences between Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.

“These are two quarterbacks with two completely different styles,” said Hill. “We want to show the impact they’ve had on football players in high schools. Brady stays in the pocket. Mahomes also stays in the pocket but also gets out of it and does other things. It demonstrates to young people that there’s more than one way to do things.”

As he looks forward to covering the Super Bowl, Hill said the game represents a prime example of how professional sports has operated in the face of the various crises facing the country.

Said Hill, “One of the things I’m most proud of is how professional sports has stepped up to the plate big time in their beliefs about social injustice, how they realize what’s right. It’s really wonderful to see what the NFL and the NBA and Major League Baseball [have done], the players’ associations and the owners [speaking] up. They have taken all of this seriously.”

Today’s professional athletes have even more responsibility than ever, he added: “A lot of young people will pay more attention to an athlete than their parents.”

He feels that this year’s Super Bowl is a testament to bravery and courage that should also offer optimism to viewers.

“Once the game starts, it’s all about the game and we can all relax for a few hours,” Hill said. “There will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and we will all get through it.”