My first Super Bowl Media Day came on familiar territory. I was in Glendale, Ariz., just four weeks ago for the Fiesta Bowl. University of Phoenix Stadium looks rather different now. Oh, the stadium seems the same, but the grounds have been transformed. The entire stadium grounds are fenced off, and the northern parking lot has been transformed into a virtual amusement park, including a Ferris wheel. I suspect this place will be nuts come Sunday.
Inside the stadium definitely was nuts Tuesday. Media Day has become more a media carnival than actual interview session. Here’s what I saw.
* The star of the show, without a doubt, was the girl from Mexico City who came prepared to coax a proposal from Tom Brady. She wore a mini-skirt wedding dress, with red high heels. Her camera crew was in tow. I’m told she went after Eli Manning, too, but I can’t personally vouch for that.
What’s she doing at the Super Bowl? At Media Day? Helping create the circus. The NFL loves this kind of stuff. Loves turning the Super Bowl into something much much more than a football game.
* Some blond gal from The Tonight Show — sorry, Jay Leno, I’m not a regular watcher — went around interviewing people asking silly questions. She chased Bill Belichick, who was very cordial and cooperative with mainstream sportswriters but didn’t seem in the mood for nonsense, so it’s a good thing she missed him. She also got the brushoff from Tedy Bruschi, the New England linebacker who in real life is not an imposing physical specimen. Bruschi just kept on walking to his station and didn’t stop for silliness. At one point, the bimbo did what most carnival acts do at Media day. Interview each other. She and Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier stuck microphones in each other’s faces and asked and answered questions.
The only question was, who was more made up? Frazier, before going on camera, got a makeshift makeover from a makeup artist, standing in the middle of 300 players and media members.
* The international press corps was well represented. A record 4,786 media credentials were issued for the game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if 1,000 were from outside the US of A. I knew this day was going to be different when, 10 minutes before the Patriots arrived, I went to Wes Welker’s station, and a TV crew from Denmark already was there. Amazing.
The internationals’ favorite topic is soccer. They love to talk soccer with any football player willing to address the subject. That doesn’t work with Michael Strahan, but someone like Welker, amiable and who grew up playing soccer in Oklahoma City, well, they were right at home. And Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes? Oh my lord. Tynes lived in Scotland until he was 10, so he was surrounded by people from the BBC and all over Europe. Talking soccer. It would drive you nuts.
* The most popular player, of course, was Brady, but Randy Moss and Eli Manning were bombarded, too. Some players were sat on small podiums with microphones and speakers. Up in the stands, chatting with writers, New England owner Robert Kraft stopped himself and said, “Randy Moss can really let it fly. I’m hearing his whole interview.”
* Not to be picky, but the Patriots were late. They were supposed to start at 10 a.m. Arizona time; they didn’t get started until about 10:05. And the Giants were early. Eli Manning started talking 10 minutes before tipoff and still was talking 70 minutes later, when New York’s session concluded. To his credit, Belichick stayed after, too, and finished up a few questions.
* Glendale’s stadium is cold. It was cold for the media day of the Oklahoma-Boise State Fiesta Bowl, it was cold for the OU-West Virginia Fiesta Bowl and it was cold Tuesday. The roof was opened, but it’s not balmy in Phoenix this time of year. When I landed at Sky Harbor airport about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature was 46. In the stadium later that morning, it was probably 10 a.m., but that’s still chilly, in a concrete stadium.
“Someone turn the heat on,” Patriot tailback Laurence Maroney yelled to no one in particular. “This is a new stadium. I know they’ve got heat.”
* Speaking of heat, look no further than Super Bowl Media Day to confirm the notion that the NFL and sex are closely aligned. There are a ton of press-credentialed women walking around in short skirts and low-cut tops; a good many are from Latin America. I don’t know what that means, but it makes for an interesting mix with all the balding 50somethings from New York and Boston with their shirttails hanging out.
* Some guy from a Spanish-speaking broadcast crew carried around a giant hand puppet while doing interviews, and another of the same genre walked around in a wizard’s costume. No one really batted an eye.
* Celebrity media were out in full force. Steve Mariucci and Deion Sanders with the NFL Network. John Salley with Fox Sports Net.
* But my favorite character from the day was the bomb dog. Super Bowl security would make an Israeli airport proud. First, you must have your Super Bowl week media credential to even get in the grounds, and you can’t get that at the stadium. It comes from the Media Center downtown. At the stadium, your credential puts you in line for a patdown, then you leave your bags off to the side, where they are searched and sniffed by a bomb dog, while you go through a metal detector. Impressive. My theory on security is this: if you’re going to have it, make it good. Don’t go through the motions.