Alan Squatrito: Live From Super Bowl Media Day
By Alan Squatrito – Big Blue United 1.31.14
There he is; holding his arms behind his back like Prince Charles, Peyton Manning walks through an anxious crowd, ready to field questions on anything and everything on his road to Super Bowl XLVIII.
What was seemingly a wild goose chase for eight months long, my quest to gain access into Media Day for Super Bowl XLVIII was finally paying off. I had a tough time believing the confirmation email I had received from the NFL event coordinators that Monday night, but with five hours left on the clock ’til the doors opened at the Prudential center, I had to say to myself,”Snap out of it, jerk!”
It was time to focus. Besides, I knew my Super Bowl coverage depended on it and that deep down inside, Peyton Manning really wanted me to be there. Yeah, right! So then, I did what any other aspiring broadcast journalist would do and started coming up with a list of questions to ask and a reliable recording device to bring with me, my cell phone!
ALMOST THERE: The Populous was the only barrier left standing in my way to gain access into Media Day as I watched commercial broadcasting crews from ESPN, Fox Sports, and Showtime receive their Media Day Passes to gain entry. “And what company are you with,” asked one of the Populous, confidently, I responded,”Big Blue United.” I held the straightest face that I possibly could as the gentleman with all the power in the world to tell me to turn around and go the heck home sized me up. Then, he logged my name along with Big Blue United into his laptop and printed out my very own Media Day Pass; BOOOM, I was in!
JUST DON’T ACT LIKE A LITTLE KID: Bright lights, advertisements, and crowd noise immediately took over my perception as I stepped foot onto the artificial turf laid before me. Various walks of life were there to observe, cover, and report the “fourth” biggest sporting event in the world and I too, was ready to do the same.
My first interaction was with retired three-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection linebacker from the Washington Redksins, LaVar Arrington. Trotting after him, I called his name 5 times before I grabbed his attention. I picked his brain on Elvis Dumervil’s foolish decision to leave Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos last off-season to sign with the Super Bowl-Hungover Baltimore Ravens. I know what your thinking, the Broncos didn’t get the fax in time, but the reality of it is if the fax would have been sent out in time, the decision to stay with the Denver Broncos would have been based on the greater likelihood of going to a Super Bowl, not on greed. Finally, I asked LaVar for his prediction of Super Bowl XLVIII and then he skedaddled. I got the feeling he was rooting for Denver.
From there, having ‘gotten my feet wet,’ I found myself stirring up questions and conversations with Rich Eisen, Terrell Davis, Brian Billick, Marhshall Faulk, Paris Lenon, Red Bryant, Shaun Philips, Warren Sapp, Cliff Avril, Pete Carroll and you guessed it…….Peyton Manning. You can listen to all those sound bites here and my one-on-one with Peyton Manning can be viewed on Youtube here.
My favorite encounter of the day was with Brian Billick. Brian knows so much about the game of football, where its headed, and how to convey a message clearly, that I cherished his conversation the most. He seemed like he was twenty-five years old. They all seem that way, because they are all living their lives like little kids. At one point, Billick was talking about how the NFL needs to regulate safety rules to ensure the safety of its players, but then he paused and steered the conversation towards, these athletes know what they are signing up for. Of course they do! The injury for risk is the price they pay for doing what they love to do most, to play football, agreeing to terms with violence.
What I learned:
Richard Sherman was more popular than Peyton Manning. I climbed up a cameraman’s vacant step ladder to ask Richard Sherman about his strength and conditioning program/coach at Stanford, but surprisingly, his attention was a lot harder to attract than Peyton Manning’s attention. His previous outbursts on live television brought the boom and after ten minutes worth of trying to grab his attention, the cameraman came back and asked me for his step ladder back.
Check the pictures out that you take after you take them!
Russel Wilson is hard to phase. He is the real deal and if you look up his scouting report, you will belt out the biggest laugh because the only knock on him was his height and that’s why he fell to the third round in the 2012 draft. If the Seahawks lose, it won’t be because of Wilson. Observing him answering media questions told me all I needed to know about his “lazer-eye focus.”
Media Day grants you a free all you can eat buffet and guess what, you can interview a lot of players and coaches right in the cafeteria!
It’s all about will and perseverance.
Love it or hate it, plenty of media day personnel-with no idea about the game of football- had gained access into Media Day. One reporter, from a network I won’t disclose, asked Wes Welker, “So what’s it like to play football?” My jaw dropped. I suddenly felt terrible for the diehard fans who had purchased tickets for Media Day, just watching from the stands in hopes of a high five or a glance from one of their favorite players or coaches.
Marshall Faulk admits Peyton Manning is a better quarterback than Tom Brady. Yes, this is a bar room conversation, but you can talk about it for hours.
Media Day is a lot less about football than it about being in the limelight. It’s a combination of the two, but the latter outweighs the former from my experience.
I am grateful for every moment I spent at Media Day. I had a great time and got some great footage.I wanted to thank Rich Eisen for writing the book Total Access, Brendan Lee, Tom Rullis, Rich Nardo, and Ian Taubin in helping me get there. I almost forgot, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Super Bowl Prediction.
The Broncos are going to win because the majority of the world wants to see Peyton Manning win one more Super Bowl before his career comes to an end. I do believe the Seahawks are the better team, but with Von Miller in the lineup, it’s too tough to call. The Seahawks lose this one due to their lack of focus and some poor officiating.
Denver Broncos win, 27-19.