Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

For 34 minutes the Super Bowl was suspended; which is OK, because it’s not like it’s the most watched sporting event in the United States. It was a cloudless night with a bright ¼ moon; giving those OUTSIDE the domed stadium some measure of light to find their bottle openers. You would think that someone would have planned for this.

According to Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Plans are nothing, but planning is everything.” Given that he was a Five Star General during World War II, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944 from the Western Front, and later became the 34th President of the United States - you might imagine he knows something about planning.

You might also think that someone on the Super Bowl committee (maybe an electrical architect) might have thought of possible power outages. Good news; they did.

Someone actually considered the possibility that a power spike, power drop, power interruption, hiccup, gap, chuckle, burp, or holy-bat-bang explosion might take out the lights. So, these geniuses installed an extra relay switch, just on the off chance that one of the aforementioned power poops didn’t stink out the joint.

The relay failed. Of course it did. This is a tenant of Murphy’s laws of electrical equilibrium. Failure will occur in the one piece of equipment designed to prevent failure.

Remember, Murphy was an optimist - this gets even worse than you thought. See, there was a contingency if the power (against all planning) went out, there were emergency electrical systems, driven off batteries and generators designed to immediately kick in so as to maintain some semblance of calm and order.

One row of emergency lights remained on. Cool. The public address system however was not considered necessary. So while some attendees could see some halls and stairs (elevators and escalators were off) - while there was some limited light, there were no instructions because - well, those circuits weren’t necessary. Brilliant.

After several days of analysis, review, and world-class finger pointing the local power company (Entergy New Orleans) proudly concluded it was the manufacturer’s fault. The vendor who supplied the relay was to blame for this global goof-up.

The vendor, Chicago-based S&C Electric Co. however, says their equipment operated exactly as the administrators configured it and that if it had been correctly configured the relay would never have tripped and the lights would have remained on, the 49ers would have lost by a larger margin, and Joe Flacco would be considered the greatest Super Bowl quarterback this side of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The audience blamed the halftime show, architects blamed the installers, the installers blamed the vendor, and the vendor blamed the administrators. Sounds like an IT shop.

Five points if you recognize the truck.

As a result of the 34 minute outage, CBS sold more commercial time and recorded the highest number of viewers in the history of the Super Bowl. Almost sounds like it was planned.


  1. That's the "pinch" from Ocean's Eleven, no?

  2. Correct - very funny moment with Don Cheadle right before he hit the button to set off the EM Pulse.


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