It was January of 2003. I had THE placard for the first time: “Super Bowl Media”. There it was; my name and Super Bowl XXXVII printed together. I picked up my credential in downtown San Diego on Monday and could not wait to talk to the Raiders and Buccaneers the following day. There were storylines everywhere; from Jon Gruden facing his former team to John Lynch playing in his hometown to the journey of veteran quarterback Rich Gannon.
So Tuesday morning came, and I was feeling excited. Many veteran media members were not sharing my enthusiasm, except for the fact that all of them had that “I’m in San Diego for the week” smile on their face. As I walked onto the field at Qualcomm Stadium for Media Day, I was hearing Roman gladiator music and the voice of John Facenda in my head.
Then reality set in.
This was a football event, right? The players and coaches were there. It was Qualcomm Stadium – home of the Chargers - and Super Bowl paraphernalia was everywhere. But instead of a gridiron environment, the field was overloaded with non-sports entertainment shows and foreign correspondents who didn’t know a quarterback from a refund. If you wanted a fashion or favorite song inquiry, this was your place. This was nirvana for anyone who loves questions like, “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?”
The next two hours turned into observing this crazed sideshow instead of anything football-related. Other than Gruden trying to avoid answers on Al Davis and the Raiders, I really only remember three things that really stood out from the whirlwind experience. The first was at the podium of Diego native John Lynch, who had prepped at Torrey Pines High School. Hall of Fame writer Jerry Izenberg had just asked Lynch a question about his hometown when Raven-Symone (Disney Channel) interrupted his answer by yelling, “What kind of product do you use in your hair?” Lynch paused, smiled and then went on with his answer. As she yelled it again, Lynch clinched his jaw and politely tried to finish his answer. I just shook my head and wondered how this could be the same girl from the The Cosby Show.
I then went over to see Warren Sapp, who had one of the largest ‘dips’ of tobacco I had had ever seen a guy take. It was like he just grabbed the entire Skoal can and threw it in there. As Sapp was holding court, comedian Aries Spears (who I believe was doing some side work for TNT) tried to rile him up by saying stuff like “Charles Barkley says he could kick you’re a**”. Sapp never took the bait, but he was pretty entertaining.
The third memory was seeing Playboy Playmate Lisa Dergan in person. No real commentary here, other than she makes quite an impression. Scott Podsednik may not hit many home runs on the field, but he definitely went Grand Slam off the field.
The rest of the week was great, and the Super Bowl experience was a definite joy to cover for a wide-eyed rookie. But with the freezing temperatures in Dallas and another non-football circus developing, I will not miss ‘Media Day’ for a second. Let the whirlwind pass, and then we can all settle in for a fun buildup to what should be a classic Super Bowl.