In my 15-year career as a NFL scout, 11 of those as a front-office executive, I’ve attended two Super Bowls, one on each side of the fence. I felt the pain of losing Super Bowl 38 to the New England Patriots on a last-second field goal, my only true chance at a Super Bowl ring.
I’ve been working in the media arena for the past 16 months, with the first six months as an NFL analyst. I was promoted to an NFL Insider and Rams Insider and sideline reporter. I had the opportunity to work last year’s Super Week in Dallas for Super Bowl 45, but didn’t stay for the game, flying back to St. Louis on Friday. This year’s Super Bowl was much different in several ways, not only working Super Week that involves radio row interviews on 101 ESPN and several national interviews including ESPN, CBS Radio to mention a few, attending daily press conferences, recording audio and writing blogs.
This year was much different in the fact that I was staying for the game. When you arrive from start to finish the NFL and the total process of the Super Bowl is a well-oiled machine, which clicks on all cylinders and doesn’t miss a beat.
As I loaded onto the bus to Lucas Oil Stadium, the difference hit me in the mouth. With the Carolina Panthers there were police escorts wherever we went; you never dealt with security. Now as a member of the media, I found myself walking through the JW Marriott (media headquarters) to the buses. We were dropped off at a media checkpoint, and we walked down an alley to the security check-in.
We showed our identification badges, were patted down by security officers, had our bags checked by bomb-sniffing dogs, then tagged and were cleared to go to the stadium. As we walked out of the security tent, which was stationed next to a hotel across from the stadium, and as I looked up at the hotel sign, I noticed several military men on the roof, with high-powered rifles, Homeland Security at its best. I missed all of this as a front-office executive.
Once inside the stadium, they had much of the media sitting in an auxiliary press box. We had to follow the purple line (taped on the floor) up a few small flights of stairs, up an escalator, down another corridor and then I climbed 82 stairs to my seat. Working with an NFL team for comparison, buses drive you into the belly of the stadium and you walk onto the field after dropping off your briefcase in the locker room. After pregame, you head to the assigned suite or press box.
After the ball is kicked off, the media goes to work recording and dissecting every play call, missed tackle and second-guessing a coach’s call or decision, and this is where team officials and the media are joined at the hip. Well, sort of.
With nine minutes remaining in the game I left my seat and followed colored tape down several flights of stairs to the interview area in the belly of the stadium, positioned myself in front of the MVP podium, and connected my recorder to the box to record every word. This is where I watched the final minutes of the game.
At the conclusion of the game, I walked from the interview area to the tunnel were I could look onto the field from a distance. I could see Giants players running around, confetti flying in the air, the celebration was on! I then saw a few Patriots with heavy heads, dejected in pain. I remember that feeling to this day. I remember that feeling. Covering the post-game pressers was very unique, standing among my peers, John Clayton, Peter King and many others. I was experiencing the other side of the fence. It was a feeding frenzy of media working and an environment of controlled chaos; it was a very interesting experience.
Super Bowl 46 was one of the best games I have ever watched and I’ve seen every Super Bowl since the age of eight with my father and uncles and now I have enjoyed another Super Bowl experience. While there were records set on the field of play, the total viewership on Super Bowl XLVI hit a record high 166.8 million. That made it the most-watched show in U.S. television history.
Just think; the first Super Bowl I got to cover was the most watched game in NFL history.