MIAMI- As a sophomore at Duquesne University in 1974, John Clayton experienced something many current sportswriters dream of and never accomplish: He covered his first Super Bowl.
He was 19 years old. He wrote for the St. Mary's Daily Press. He was one of a few hundred credentialed reporters. Honestly, it wasn't that big of a deal.
"Back then, you didn’t have social media, you didn't have radio row, everything was smaller than it is now," Clayton told The Big Lead at the Super Bowl. "The hotels were smaller. The crowds were smaller. It’s not like it was with Joe Namath here in Miami Beach sitting there getting interviewed by the pool. It was in the hundreds. Not the thousands."
That Clayton, one of the most respected NFL reporters in the game, said this while sitting in the auxiliary press area says it all. The NFL had to cordon off four sections to handle the overflow of reporters interested in covering the event. They also had the entire press box area filled. Clayton was part of the auxiliary group. In total, over 1,000 media members descended on Miami to cover this international event.
"The access is still there to be able to do [your job]," Clayton said. "But it becomes a little more challenging."
Clayton provided some further context of how things have changed. While the press used to be able to park close to the stadium, parking is now over a mile away from the entrance. It's why Clayton refers to this as Uber Bowl 54. You have to travel long distances to get where you want to go.
There's also the reality of interviewing the players. Not only is it hard to hear what they're saying in interview settings because of the hundreds of other media members circling them, but years ago players were more open because they weren't afraid of becoming the next viral meme for the wrong reasons.
"You had "Hollywood" Henderson saying Terry Bradshaw couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the T, and that carried over to the game," Clayton said. "It became feisty. You loved that [as a reporter]."
This is Clayton's 43rd Super Bowl, and while logistics have become more challenging, it hasn't changed the way he feels about covering it.
"It’s the Super Bowl," Calyton said. "You just enjoy that part of it. You get to see everybody."
All 1,000 of them.