Ah, Media Day.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will gather today at Cowboys Stadium to meet the media and be asked hundreds of stupid questions, subjected to dozens of ridiculous stunts.
It’s the most fun day of Super Bowl Week.
I love it. I hate it. I will miss it this year.
Four weeks ago, like just about every other media member in the nation, I was certain the New England Patriots were going to make it to the Super Bowl.
Well, not as certain as Tom King of the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire. After the Steelers beat the Ravens, he was certain the Patriots couldn’t lose and booked plane tickets to Dallas. Oops.
I looked forward to visiting Big D. My brother-in-law, Jeff, who hasn’t spoken to me since the Patriots’ loss to the Jets, his dismay eating away at him, was making plans to join me.
And then poof! Gone.
I was sad for many reasons. That the Patriots lost was not one of them; I am, after all, a New York Giants fan and I suffered enough through another lost regular season. Mostly, I was sad because I was going to miss Media Day.
It truly has a circus atmosphere. As Christian Fauria, a Patriots tight end, said in Houston before the 2004 Super Bowl: “All it’s missing is a clown, a bear and maybe a ringmaster.”
I’m actually surprised that I’ve never seen any of those at the four Media Days I have attended.
I’ve seen a genie: not smoking out of a lamp, but interviewing players.
I’ve seen a bride-to-be: Mexican “sportscaster” Ines Gomez-Mont, dressed in the skimpiest white wedding dress you’ll ever see, promising to ask Tom Brady to marry her in Phoenix before the 2008 Super Bowl. Alas, he said no – but not before Gomez-Mont revealed her ignorance of all-things-Patriot and asked Kyle Brady, a Patriots tight end, to marry her.
I’ve seen Nickelodeon’s one-time mascot, Pick Boy, dressed in a black super hero outfit with an orange-and-green cape, perform touchdown dances and ask players if they would use them in the big game. No one did.
I’ve seen William “The Refrigerator” Perry, working for “Jimmy Kimmel Live”, ask members of the Philadelphia Eagles such insightful questions as, “What’s your favorite planet?,” and “Are you ticklish?”
I’ve seen Inez Sainz – the same blond Mexican broadcaster who said she was harassed by the Jets earlier this year – walking around in fewer clothes than you see on a Victoria’s Secret runway. (What is it about Mexican sports television?)
I’ve seen Ethan Kelley, a 6-foot-2, 310-pound seldom-used defensive tackle for the Patriots, wear a cardboard mask of the late Anna Nicole Smith while he was being interviewed before the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville. Why? He was asked to by another interviewer.
“Man,” he said, obviously anguished that he had to wear the mask, “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
Media Day, you see, is not about gathering pertinent information leading into the Big Game. That’s for the following two days, when members of the press gather at each team’s site to sit down and probe, to get to know the third-string defensive tackle, to find out what the life of a long-snapper is all about.
Certainly there are those who use Media Day for serious stories. When the Patriots gathered in New Orleans for the 2002 Super Bowl, five months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, journalists swarmed Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi, whose three brothers – Jim, Mike and Bill – were New York City firefighters and responded to the World Trade Center attack. Jim, in fact, was in Tower 2 when the other collapsed. They all survived, and Andruzzi’s story was riveting.
But for every serious journalist, there are a dozen like Sainz, there are correspondents for every television talk show, there are reality TV stars. They’re not around the rest of the week, just for that one insane day. Not that they leave the host city, you can spot them at any of the city’s hot spots throughout the week.
The players love it. The rest of the week will be filled with enough stress. For one day, they can enjoy the spotlight, which is why many of them bring video cameras.
“It’s crazy,” said Patriots linebacker Roman Phifer before the 2002 Super Bowl. Phifer had played in the NFL for 10 seasons. That was his first Super Bowl.
“It’s everything I dreamed it would be and imagined,” he said, his eyes wide and his smile beaming. “I’ve seen it on TV from afar, but to actually be here and be in it it’s a great show.”
Here’s what happens. The NFL sets up stations for about a dozen players and coaches. Some are on platforms on the sidelines, others in the stands. The rest of the players mingle on the sideline or in the stands.
The media have one hour with each team, the stadium clock counting down to zero. Once the session begins, media members stream down through the stands toward the field.
I’ve learned to wander through the chaos, picking up bits and pieces of interviews from the platforms, searching for players that no one else seems interested in.
They all have a story to tell.
And Media Day, for all its insanity, is the place and time to tell it.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]