By the time I covered my first Super Bowl, in Houston, following the 2003 season, media day had already become a farce. There were reporters three rows deep around ESPN anchor Chris Berman. Serious reporters, as I imagined myself to be, stood around and grumbled as other reporters donned costumes while conducting interviews. Media day isn’t so much about the gathering information as it is about the spectacle.
It makes complete sense, then, that fans at Minute Maid Park were able to shell out $30 to sit in the stands and watch this circus. They have access to earphones that allow them to hear players and head coaches who are sitting at twelve different podiums. The rest of the players mill around with the reporters. Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett is one of the better quotes in the NFL, and that’s probably why head coach Belichick didn’t have him at a podium. I had a good relationship with Bennett when he played for the Cowboys. He once told me that he communicated with “the dolphins” when the Cowboys practiced near the ocean in Oxnard, California. He also told me that he planned to use a lot more foul language because he wanted to be like then-Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, to which I responded that the plan seemed a bit silly. Still, I was taken aback when he offered me a hug Monday in front of several reporters.
Guillermo Rodriguez from Jimmy Kimmel Live! made the rounds in his usual navy sport coat and gray slacks asking players such as Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, “What Disney princess are you?” Babineaux threw him off when he answered, “Neither.”
In the seats, Just Martinez had given his friends, Larry Urbina, and brothers Efrain and David Garcia, tickets to media night. “You don’t get the Super Bowl every year, so we wanted to come out,” Martinez said. “Our team [Texans] didn’t make it, but we still wanted to see these other teams.” The Garcia brothers said that they were each willing to pay as much as $1,000 per ticket to Sunday’s game, but that was their limit. (As of Monday, the lowest price for Super Bowl tickets on Stubhub is $1,950.)
Moments later, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick began his sixty minutes with reporters with an actual running clock keeping time on a video screen. He forced himself to smile at times and seemed to embrace some of the absurd questions. Asked about Lady Gaga, who is leading this year’s halftime show, Belichick reminded the reporter that he’s not able to watch the performance. But he remembers what happened the last time the Patriots played in a Super Bowl in Houston. “Last time we were here, it was what’s her face [Janet Jackson],” he said, the show undoubtedly made memorable by her infamous wardrobe malfunction. “That was a real performance, wasn’t it?” Reporters gave him a hearty laugh, hoping it might lead to more off-the-cuff remarks. It didn’t.
At the first podium, the Patriots’ pint-sized wide receiver Danny Amendola, a Houston-area native, was offering restaurant recommendations. He told several folks to try Pappasito’s Cantina for Tex-Mex. When he saw me cringe, he asked for my opinion. Being from Dallas, my only thought for Houston was the original Ninfa’s. “Who are these Pappas guys?” Amendola joked at one point.
Amendola, of Woodlands High School fame, played at Texas Tech before joining the Dallas Cowboys. He said he didn’t really think about the possibility of playing the Cowboys in the Super Bowl until he arrived in Houston. “This place would’ve been crazy,” said Amendola, who wore a skull cap despite being in a climate-controlled facility.
The indie rock group X Ambassadors took the stage immediately after the Patriots’ session and played their hit song, “Renegades.” As the band played, the retractable roof opened for a fireworks show. I couldn’t help but think of the poor fortune that my hometown Dallas suffered when a rare ice storm hit during Super Bowl XLV. I remembered seeing at least twelve stranded vehicles during my trip to Arlington for media day in 2011—here’s hoping someone helped those folks. That was one of the last media days that wasn’t open to fans. At this point, I’d be happy to let the fans take over media day altogether.
It may have happened anyway.