Willard Scott, naked people, Paul McCartney, The Weather Channel, an obscure long-snapper, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and all-night typing.
You have your Super Bowl memories.
I have mine.
I went to six Super Bowls, enough to have nice memories and to remind me that the circus can get old.
These VI days, I’ll recall each of them:
Super Bowl XXXIX, Jacksonville, 2005:
We’ll acknowledge the obvious, as everyone seemed eager to do in January 2005. What’s a Super Bowl doing in Jacksonville?
The city was pretty much a pinata for the national media all week, though it did a nice enough job. It was probably fitting that it hosted one of the least-sexy matchups, the Eagles against – ho-hum, them again – the Patriots.
The previous two Super Bowls had been cost-prohibitive for us to cover, at San Diego and Houston. It also showed a little bit of how we had begun to prioritize pro football was that half the justification for traveling to Florida was to attend the NASCAR Media Day two days later in Daytona.
I didn’t go to Jacksonville early in the week for media day. I remember timing my arrival in time for Paul McCartney’s press conference, the annual event where the halftime performers answer softball questions from sportswriters. No matter how long I live, as a child of the 1960s, I’ll never be in the same room with anybody as cool.
McCartney was chosen for halftime because he was considered “safe,” something the NFL felt strongly about after Janet Jackson’s oopsie moment of the previous year
I realized I haven’t talked much in these other blogs about actually covering the game. First, you have to order credentials in mid-season. There’s no waiting around to see who makes the Super Bowl and then getting a pass. You can always cancel, certainly, but the NFL has a good memory. Too many “thanks but no thanks” for a press pass, and the NFL will deny your request. So despite the matchup, we pressed on.
When you work for a mid-major newspaper and don’t regularly cover one of the participating teams, you don’t exactly get a 50-yard-line seat for a Super Bowl.
There are auxiliary press areas in the stadium, using existing stadium seating, with table tops created every other row, and monitors for up-to-the-minute stats and the TV broadcast sprinkled everywhere.
Those seats were almost impossible to navigate. Think of being at the movies, and the person four seats away needs to hit the restroom. Now, imagine that clumsy step-over and step-around manuever in stadium seats and a desktop at chest level, close enough to facilitate typing.
Either outside the stadium or in massive ballroom spaces inside, there are enormous enclosed, climate-controlled tents with workspace, TV monitors, drinks, snacks and a torrent of stats and quotes distributed postgame. That’s where most everybody writes their stories, since its usually adjacent to the interview areas and it avoids trudging back to those cramped, outdoor seats.
In Miami in 1999, as an afternoon paper not faced with a deadline, I was assigned a seat among a bunch of radio guys, without even a tabletop. The NFL generously left a clipboard at each seat. (The NFL, by the way, was always generous with the swag: cool computer bags, pins and pens, seat cushions to make those stadium seats more tolerable and even cracker-sized radios with earbuds, to enable journalists to listen to the TV or participating-team radio broadcasts.)
The next year, in Atlanta, as part of the Titans’ media contingent, I was in the main press box. But it was outdoors, in the end zone two rows from the top of the lower bowl in Tampa. New Orleans was an auxiliary seat in the stands.
For Jacksonville, well, you see the credential.
See the “Row HH” distinction? Please note that Jacksonville’s stadium has no Row II.
This was the very back row, a few seats from the end, looking straight down on the back line of the end zone. I was closer to Georgia than the field, and it was 59 degrees at kickoff — and wasn’t going to get any warmer.
I watched the first half, diligently taking notes as always. I sat mesmerized as McCartney performed at halftime. Then, as the worker bees began dismantling the stage four miles below me, I began dismantling my workspace.
I tucked my laptop in a bag, gathered my notes, squeezed past some other grumbling typists on the way to the aisle, and headed to the ramp. I made it to the media tent outside the stadium just as the second half was starting.
And thus I watched the last half of the last Super Bowl I covered just as I’ll watch today’s game: On a big-screen TV, with space to stretch my legs, in climate-controlled comfort.