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POSTED BY STUART LEVINE

Madden Following the frantic exec session with Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, NBC’s next panel focused on the network’s Sunday Night Football package. And, despite Silverman’s success on “The Office” and “Ugly Betty,” this was a group with just a few more accomplishments between them.

Sitting in the front row of the stage were NBC Sports topper Dick Ebersol, John Madden (pictured right), Al Michaels, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth and Keith Olbermann. Behind them were producer Fred Gaudelli, reporter Andrea Kramer, future Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber, and production exec Michael Weisman.

Michaels, forever known for his 1980 Winter Olympics call “Do you believe in miracles” on the U.S. upset of the USSR in hockey, is an announcing institution. He’s appeared in more live primetime network broadcasts than any person in history.

Madden coached the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl win but that almost seems an afterthought at this point. His gravelly signature voice has become ingrained into the minds of football fans that the week’s big game only matters if he’s doing the color. That’s not true, of course, with Fox and CBS also doing a steller job covering the league, but Madden’s presence always raises the game up a notch.

Costas has won 19 Emmys and feels old school … in a good way. There’s no doubt about his first sports love, which is baseball, but his football acumen remains strong.

The lightning rod of the NBC football shows this year will be Olbermann, who has become a champion for liberals over the past few years. On his increasingly popular MSNBC “Countdown” show, Olbermann pokes and prods the Bush Administration. Whether he does the same thing to Peyton Manning and Terrell Owens remains to seen.

“If I say something negative about Reggie Bush, then I have to say something negative about Clinton Portis,” Olbermann joked.

He’ll get that chance early on. The network’s first game is Thursday, Sept. 6 when Bush and his New Orleans Saints travel to Indianapolis to face the world champion Colts.

But, certainly, his appearance will bring in viewers who might not be as much fans of the game as fans of him.

“With Keith, there comes an interesting heat,” said Ebersol. Referring back to Olbermann’s days on “SportsCenter,” “With Dan (Patrick), he changed the way generation of fans looks at highlights.”

— Stuart Levine

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