Beyond the Boxscore
DENVER — It's more than three hours till kickoff and there are only two men in the CBS booth in the Mile High stadium complex — a technician and Jim Nantz.
"I've been here since 10 a.m.," Nantz says, rising to shake hands with a visitor who expected to have to wait for him. "I try to get here five hours before every game to run things through my mind and really focus in."
This showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans is another chance for the lead voice of CBS Sports to be a "storyteller." But it's not just another game to Nantz, who spent his key formative years — and went to college — in Houston and says he considers the Bayou City his hometown. For Nantz is calling his second Houston Texans game ever, his first since the 2009 season opener between the Jets and the Texans.
"The Texans are obviously a team that took the right steps all the way . . . that runs counter intuitive to the way everything else has gone in this country, where everyone wants instant gratification."
And that means something to a guy who's bought season tickets to the Texans for every year of their existence even though he knows he'll never be the one sitting in those seats.
"I know this is a significant experience for the franchise," Nantz says. "This is the first time the Texans have been the featured game in the national doubleheader. They've never been on Sunday Night Football . . . not since it's been on an over-the-air network. They've never played on Thanksgiving day. A lot of those things are set to change this year and this is the first step . . .
"Most of the country is going to be watching the Texans-Broncos this afternoon. Pittsburgh (vs. Oakland) is going to be shown to a very small percentage of the country."
Nantz pauses, looking out onto the Broncos' sun-splashed field.
"Think about a guy in New York," he says. "This doubleheader is going to have a different look for him. He's going to be watching the Texans, thinking, 'All right, let's see what these Texans are all about.' It's a significant exposure."
To Nantz, Houstonian at heart, it all means more because of who brought pro football back to Houston — and how he built these Texans.
"The Texans are obviously a team that took the right steps all the way along," he says. "In a lot of ways, that runs counter intuitive to the way everything else has gone in this country, where everyone wants instant gratification. Where people will sell out anything to win tomorrow.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bob McNair building the franchise in a steady way for the long term. I have a feeling I'm going to be calling a lot more Texans games in the years to come."
A Big Easy Vision
Nantz will be calling the Super Bowl in New Orleans this February — and the possibility of getting to hand the Lombardi Trophy off to one of his favorite people hasn't been lost on him.
"Houston's one of the 10 teams where you'd have to say they have a real chance of being that Super Bowl winner," Nantz says. ". . . I have thought about that. What that trophy handoff and interview would be like. I think the world of Bob McNair and (his wife) Janice. They're great people, great, great people."
"Think about a guy in New York. This doubleheader is going to have a different look for him. He's going to be watching the Texans."
Nantz spend his Saturday at the Texans' hotel in Denver, doing pregame interviews with key players and coaches and he walked away impressed.
"There's a certain attitude with this Texans team," he says. "They know they have a chance to do something special and they seem determined to grab that opportunity knowing that they don't come around that often."
Still, Nantz expects his friends and family (including his mother who he jokes thinks she knows all the Texans players personally even though she doesn't) will be mad at him after this Broncos broadcast.
"I'm completely impartial in the broadcast," Nantz says. "And that usually means people think you're rooting for the team going against their team. All my friends and my family will get on me about being hard on the Texans. I'm sure I'll hear about it."
Nantz points out that he has plenty of friends in the Broncos organization as well. At one point during the height of Tebow Mania, he and his broadcast partner Phil Simms did five straight Denver games last season (the last three regular season games and two playoff games).
"I've done commercials with Peyton (Manning)," he says. "I've played golf with Peyton. They're not strangers to me."
Nantz smiles. It's almost time to get back to work. He invites this reporter to come back to the booth for the Texans Thanksgiving day showdown in Detroit. "It's a big booth in Detroit, a nice booth."
Hey, Nantz is going to be around. The face of CBS Sports plans to spend plenty of time around these Texans.