|Come one, come all -- and we mean all|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
SAN DIEGO -- Here's what you need to get into Super Bowl Media Day:
A media credential. A jersey. A football to autograph. A recently released movie. A hand puppet. A permission slip from your mother. A semi-hit CD.
Or if you have the jersey, the football, the movie, the hand puppet, the permission slip and the CD, you can probably get by without the credential.
As a reporter, I once waited a couple hours in the snow for Tonya Harding to arrive in Lillehammer, Norway, and wave to the cameras. During the major-league tour of Japan, I had Barry Bonds' p.r. person tell me that in order to interview him about winning the MVP award, I needed to place a long distance phone call back to New York so I could listen in on a conference call to the United States, which Bonds was doing from my very hotel in Fukuoka.
Both were demeaning moments, but my chosen profession never stoops so low as when it comes time to cover Super Bowl Media Day, the annual day when more than a thousand reporters are herded into the stadium so we can crowd and shout questions at the players.
It's never a pretty day for journalism.
There was a reporter with a Mexican TV station dressed in a complete football uniform -- jersey, pants, socks and shoes. The only thing he was missing was eye black, but he probably reserves that for game day. I kept expecting somebody from the NFL to either revoke his media credential or fine him for not wearing his socks within a half-inch of his knee.
I'm not sure why he was dressed this way, but I hope it's not because it's his usual routine to dress exactly like the athletes he's covering that day. If so, I just hope he never covers women's figure skating at the Olympics. Or worse, men's figure skating.
The guy wasn't alone, either. While no one else wore a complete uniform, there were almost as many reporters as there were players wearing jerseys.
Of course, I'm using the term "reporters" very loosely. Among the reporters were musician/actress Mandy Moore and comedian Anthony Anderson ("Barbershop" and "Kangaroo Jack"), who represented an annoying trend of giving press passes to B- and C-List celebrities and sending them in for a wild and crazy take on the game. I don't get the point. This is the equivalent of the Raiders sending backup quarterback Marques Tuiasasopo to the Academy Awards and having him pester Meryl Streep with questions while she walks up the red carpet.
Jay Leno's people sent over someone with gag questions. Tech TV sent two women to ask players what tech toys they use. ABC and Nickelodeon had a kid interviewing players. So did "The Weekly Reader." Several guys who had no apparent role kept posing for photos with the players and handing them footballs to sign.
There was a reporter who curled his hand into a fist, stuck two plastic eyes between his knuckles, wiggled his thumb and spoke in a strange voice as if his hand was conducting the interview. I'm not kidding. He also had the hand wear a miniature football helmet.
(I'm sure his Edward R. Murrow award is on the way.)
He wasn't the most annoying person, though. That distinction goes to our friends at "The Best Damn Sports Show" who sent some boor to loudly perform a Don King schtick, interrupting people who were actually working so he could deliver his "hilarious" routine and provoke a response. Even the players couldn't stand him, trying their best to ignore him. Which wasn't easy. The guy kept yelling at Warren Sapp until the big man finally called for security, asked, "Who let him in?" and complained, "That's why it's NOT the BEST damn sports show."
There were a lot of questions and debate about who will win the game, but the clear edge in bling-bling goes to the Bucs. Tampa Bay cornerback Dwight Smith wore four-carat diamond earrings on each ear. That's eight carats total. They were so big it looked like he was wearing ear muffs. "They cost $60,000," Smith said. "I've got the biggest rocks on the team, but I don't have the biggest bankbook."
Still, the only piece of jewelry the players are really interested in is a Super Bowl championship ring. It's what they've been working for ever since they first picked up a football.
Consider Oakland lineman Lincoln Kennedy. He grew up in San Diego and played baritone in the band until he was in the ninth grade, and the football coach told him to come out for the team.
"I was very clumsy, and I hadn't done any sports until then," he said. "I did all my growing in high school -- I grew eight inches in high school -- and there were a lot of growing pains. I was awkward."
He played his final high school game right here at Jack Murphy Stadium, starred at the University of Washington where he led the Huskies to a share of their only national championship and was Atlanta's first-round pick in 1993. Three years later, the Falcons gave up on Kennedy and traded him to Oakland where he has been ever since.
And now, here he is. Nine seasons into his NFL career, he'll play his first Super Bowl in the same stadium where he finished his high school career.
"It's a tremendous privilege," he said. "I never thought I would ever play in a Super Bowl, let alone play in one in my hometown. I can't tell you how excited I am. I just need some time to enjoy it."
There are many ways to get into the Super Bowl Media Day. You can wear a media credential or a jersey. You can perform in a movie or release a CD. You can ask questions with a hand-puppet.
Or you can get in the way Kennedy did.
By earning it.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.