Blondes, Cheap Aftershave And An Aggressive Uncle Leo: A Diary From Super Bowl Media Day

By Ty Duffy
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The NFL has a peculiar ability to fashion “events” from nothing. Super Bowl Media Day fits that mold. Outside, there are TV trucks, police cordons and ticket scalpers. Inside, there are lights, cameras, artificial turf and cheerleaders. Fans, by the hundreds, file in for $28.50 a piece. Media by the thousands cover every nuance. There’s no football on display, only the faintest of tangible connections to those that play it. For many, even those partial to eliminated teams, that is enough.

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9:38 AM… The layout is a hockey arena, with the hockey hollowed out and green carpet softening the cold concrete. Five main podia, for quarterbacks, head coaches and other big names, fill the center. Smaller booths for ancillary contributors, named and anonymous, line the perimeter.

NFL Network has a full desk set up near the entrance. FOX Sports and ESPN have smaller allotments on the far side. The former has an enclosed huddle of directors chairs for ex-athletes. The latter has a small stage just big enough to fit Mark Schlereth and Hannah Storm with minimal awkwardness.

Food and beverages are forbidden beyond a certain point, unless provided from coolers placed by official event fueler Gatorade.

Sainz spends far more time being interviewed than interviewing others. Radio guys badger her for pictures. Television crews get her on camera. An Aussie film crew frames shots of her being filmed by other outlets. A fan from the peanut gallery bellows for everyone to “look at that booty!” The advice was probably redundant.

[RELATED: Marisol Gonzalez is this Year’s Ines Sainz at Super Bowl Media Day]

10:05 AM… Zaniness self-destructs when it becomes a cliché. Like the commercials on Sunday, Media Day eccentricity has become trite. The “characters” begin making their rounds. One European reporter is dressed as Mozart. Another largish man from Denmark walks around as Waldo. They seek attention. Pavlovian TV outlets, desperate for color, descend upon them.

10:18 AM… Dan Shaughnessy waits for Wes Welker. He’s camped up front, with paper editions of the New York Times and USA Today draped over the railing. He peruses them with permanent marker in hand and an unconscious scowl. I note this may be the perfect old media portrait. That in fact comes about 40 minutes later, when Chris Berman sidles up beside him, holding a microphone.

I spy my first skullet. Along with the Santa beard, it seems to be a hot look among cameramen and photographers this season. An Uncle Leo doppelganger knocks me to the side to get closer to the front. He has journalism to perform.

10:47 AM… Movement is treacherous in the confined space. So is not moving, as thousands scurry in tunnel-visioned work mode. Cords on the ground. Swinging camera equipment. People everywhere lining up photographs. I walk with elbows tucked in, ever conscious I’m about to bump into someone. After the first score of inadvertent jostles, I stop apologizing.

The dress code provides a neat microcosm of sports media gender inequity. Men predominate. Relaxed fit jeans. Plaid shirts. The odd shapeless leather jacket. Not a lot of fitness enthusiasts to be found.

The smaller female contingent is mostly there to be on camera, made up and done up with hair often bleached and extended. Form-hugging dresses or tight pants. Heels that can’t feel good after four hours of standing (my feet hurt afterward in sneakers). Flats appear to be acceptable, if they are leather boots that come up to the knee.

Many draw unconscious head turns, absent-minded stares and speculation. “I think she’s the one from FOX.”

11:49 AM… The halftime show is raging. “Motown: The Musical” cast members perform on a small, central stage. They give way to Tramps Like US, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, live from a forlorn arena corner. The singer asks, pleadingly, “is anyone alive out there?” The response is non-committal.

The rush on Richard Sherman places has begun. Forty-five minutes before hand, the crowd is substantial and growing. A few male media members use the lull to take pictures with the Jets’ Flight Crew.

Random, non-media notables appear. Olympian Gabby Douglas corresponds for “Inside Edition.” Miss New Jersey is milling about with a sash and a tiara. Hank Azaria conducts interviews in a loud, plaid jacket. Jay Paterno is present, carrying a full pad of paper. The biggest hit is the inimitable Cousin Terio, escorted by DeSean Jackson.

“Pardon Me! Pardon Me!” belts a security guard, as he parts a path to the rear of the stage. Behind him is Deion Sanders, who takes a place within earshot to Sherman’s left.

Over at Russell Wilson’s podium, he is, you guessed it, talking about Sherman. “It wasn’t a factor at all” and “he’s a great teammate” if you are curious. The next reporter interrogates him about Macklemore’s Grammy Award. Wilson then obliges a Bears writer, who must know about his relationship with Marc Trestman, who recruited but did not coach him at N.C. State. Wilson “has a lot of respect for him.”

1:20 PM… Despite noticing a tweet that “Beast Mode was in the Building,” I cannot find Marshawn Lynch’s podium. I found out why later on the Internet. Other notable misses on my part include Regis and this question to Richard Sherman.

1:35 PM… Seasoned by past PATH train experience, I duck out a few minutes early. A volunteer hands me a dense media gifts bag with a shoulder strap. The NFL wants my enduring impression to be Ruffles, McDonalds, Tide, Head and Shoulders, Gillette, Gatorade, Pepsi, Old Spice, Puffs, Panini cards, Quaker Oats and Courtyard Marriott hotels. Was hoping for Pilot Flying J gift card.

[Photos via USA Today Sports]

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