It was by far the greatest experience of my life, bar none. The experience I got from a journalistic point may never be matched. The friendships I made and strengthened were great, and the people I met made this such a memorable experience. Naturally, as a journalist/writer, I feel the need to write this all out, for myself and for those curious about it.
The opportunity came about in a fluky way. On the Monday following the conference title games, my good friend Jacob (yes, we are known as the Jacobs) posted on Facebook that he had gotten an internship for the Super Bowl. I texted him about it out of curiosity, but expected nothing to come about it. On Wednesday, I got a call from him asking me if I'd be interested in doing the internship with him. The man in charge wanted a journalist after the one he originally had dropped out. After getting in contact with Super Bowl Wayne (and he really calls himself that), I secured the internship by Thursday.
This left me very little time for preparation. I wasn't quite ready for an internship at the biggest annual sporting event. I was unshaven, long overdue for a hair cut, had limited business attire, and didn't even own a pair of dress shoes (which is quite a task to find in a size 15). I sacrificed class time to get ready and make sure everything was done, having to be in Indy by Sunday morning.
Luckily for me, I got done. Even luckier, Jacob offered to let me stay in his living room for the week, saving me a lot of gas money or hotel expenses. He's a student at Butler, so we were already near downtown Indianapolis (just a 15-minute drive each day to the JW Marriot, where all media was located). The luckiest thing of the week might be that their couch is incredibly comfortable.
Sunday, January 29
I got to Butler around 11 AM to find out that our meeting was pushed back from 1230 to 2. Good news for someone who isn't a morning person. We made our way, cameras, tripods, and backpacks in hand, downtown. We met Super Bowl Wayne on the second floor. The most noticeable thing about the man is that he is completely bald except for a rat tail in the back of his head that he braids. This is real life.
We were introduced to the rest of our team: Martie ("executive producer"), Rogelia (photographer, website manager), and most importantly Jacqui (co-host). I say most importantly because Jacqui had worked with Wayne in the past and knew what to expect. We should have taken the hint when her first question to us was "Do you drink?". Consider us naive, but we expected nothing of it.
We were taken to the room where we received our photo credentials, which was a big thing to me. Having never had credentials like this of any kind, having photo credentials for the Super Bowl was a "pinch me" moment. Credentials around our neck, we made our way up to radio row. This room was a grand ballroom with a huge set in the middle for NFL Network. On one side, there were some smaller sets for Sirius radio, Yahoo Sports, and the Jim Rome show. On the other half, it was full of hundreds of tables with radio stations who got credentials here.
Sign #2 should have been the fact we were "forgotten", as in we didn't have a table. We found the man in charge, who said he'd sort it out, but it'd take a while. In the meantime, we put our stuff in a secure location and went down to the first floor for lunch. There, we discussed the future week and our jobs. I found out I'd be primarily used as a cameraman with some opportunities (none, in reality) to write stories. Nevertheless, I was very eager to get started.
After lunch, we made our way upstairs, where we had a table this time. We set up camp before heading to the IUPUI campus where the Patriots would be holding their first press conference of the week. I wasn't sure what to expect for this, so when I walked into a room of hundreds of people set up to watch Belichick's presser, it was a bit surprising. Jacob and Jacqui set up in that room while Wayne and I went to a heated tent outside where individual players were made available simultaneously for interviews.
As the interviews started, we did a quick 2 or 3 question interview with Chung before moving on. Wayne did not recognize a single player and relied on me and my sports knowledge to tell him what I knew about the people. We struggled on Day 1 and spent most the time getting sound bites from other people's questions. We met back up following the session and went back to the JW. We packed up for the night headed home.
Monday, January 30
Monday was much similar to Sunday. We got a late start on the day and didn't meet up until 2 PM. We went downstairs to the Patriots player interviews. However, the Patriots were running late and pushed us into the Giants player interview times, meaning Jacob and Wayne had to leave to cover them. Jacqui and myself stayed and got some time to learn about Wayne. Lucky for me, Jacqui was a sports fan did her research very well and knew what questions to ask. We got some solid interviews before heading back up to radio row. We met up with Jacob and Wayne and called it a night as we had a big day ahead of us the next day, media day.
This was probably the least exciting/busy day of the week.
Tuesday, January 31
Tuesday started a stretch of exhaustion for us. From 7 AM Tuesday morning until Thursday at midnight (65 hours), Jacob and myself had 8 hours of sleep. Still, it was a sacrifice I'd make 10 times out of 10.
This day started with us meeting at the JW before heading on a shuttle bus to the stadium. Before going in, they had an extensive security search. We had to place all bags in a gated off area where search dogs would sniff them while we were walking through metal detectors and being waved down by metal detector wands. After we cleared everything, we got our stuff and made our way to Lucas Oil.
Media Day was everything it was cracked up to be. Unfortunately, Wayne picked the lesser known players who had no one around them to interview rather than waiting a couple minutes for more well known players. Most of this came from the fact that he had to hand out his chocolate covered nuts and calendars. From my understanding, the companies that pay his way there make these nuts and calendars under the stipulation he hand them out there. While it's EXTREMELY cheesy and not very professional in my opinion (more so in the way he did it, not the premise), I can understand why he did it. This is why he picked people he didn't have to wait on, meaning he could immediately give them candy, get an interview, and move on.
Even then, we met Stephen Gostkowski, Kevin Faulk, Devin McCourty, and a lot of lesser known players. Coming in as someone who wasn't entirely fond of the Patriots, I must say I've changed my ways as they are people like the rest of us. It's very cliche, but spending as much time as I did with them changes your mind. Following the Patriots media session, we went up to lunch, where we saw Steve Mariucci giving an interview. We waited and got a sound bite from him, but that resulted in us rushing lunch and having to get down to the field quickly.
The Giants media session went much better as we got to interview the mayor of Indianapolis, Greg Ballard, who was good friends with Wayne and Martie (still have no idea how). Then, we made our way over to where Chris Berman was filming his own interviews. Wayne had said before hand that they were good friends, but he offered every reason to be skeptical of him with his actions and how he exaggerates very much so. However, upon seeing Wayne and Martie, Berman waved us over and greeted them before introducing himself to me. I also got to meet Tedy Bruschi before filming an interview with Wayne, the only one he did that day.
After media day wrapped up, we were all pretty tired and made our way to radio row. There, the tables were filling up and celebrities were beginning to file around from table to table to do interviews. We, however, were far too tired and decided to break for the day, considering we also had a party that night for the media.
That night, we made our way via shuttle to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We exited the shuttle and made our way into a heated tent where we checked in our coats. We exited to a lineup of Indy cars of every NFL team awaiting us. We walked in amazement, trying to find our favorite team's cars. We first found the Broncos one where Jacob and Jacqui Tebowed while I took a picture. I found the Vikings one and got a picture before making our way into the next tent.
The only way to describe this party was that it was something you'd see in a movie. We were greeted by ladies in extravagant, borderline ridiculous costumes for the Super Bowl. There was classical music being played on violins and cellos. We stood in amazement before Jacqui led us around, where we found some appetizers, then food in all you can eat buffets. Lastly, we found the most important part, the open bar. Jacqui and myself got drinks before we searched (reluctantly) for Wayne. We found them, conversed for a while, then left them to explore. We exited the other end of the tent to the Pagoda, which anyone who has seen the Speedway will know what it is. As we neared, we saw that the track itself was open and made our way there to find out we could get our picture kissing the yard of bricks, which is traditional for anyone who wins a race at the Speedyway. The start/finish line is a literal yard of bricks left over from it's original state.
Each level of the Pagoda offered a different experience. The second floor of the pagoda contained appetizers and finger foods along with an outside lounge on the balcony with fire pits. The third floor was an open vodka bar. The fourth floor was the scotch and cigar floor and the fifth supposedly had burgers but we didn???t get up there in time. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience.
Wednesday, February 1
We didn't get home the night before until around 12:30, didn't go to bed until 1:30, and had to be up by 5:30. The early start killed us, but we were very thankful for Monsters. We had to be up and ready at the IUPUI campus by 830 for the start of the Patriots media session. The set up, for those that have never seen, is literally a room full of tables. Each table has anywhere from 1 person (popular players) to 4 players (not popular players) assigned to them. As media, you wander around the room and interview who you want. I convinced Wayne that'd it be worthwhile to wait on Chad Ochocinco as this was his first media availability and it'd be newsworthy either way.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Chad was late. While waiting on him, we interviewed Tiquan Underwood (who became famous for being cut the night before the Super Bowl). After the interview, we were talking and convinced him to interview Chad for us. 40 minutes after his scheduled arrival time, Chad showed. Nonetheless, it was a great interview and Chad came to him first for questions. Unsurprisingly, we didn't have much time after that to interview anyone else and only got a couple lesser known players interviewed before the session ended.
As we got to the Giants session, I again convinced Wayne of who to interview, this time Jason Pierre-Paul. We got some great quotes from him before moving on and getting some other players and coaches.
Once we got to the JW, it was time for Radio Row interviews. Despite not having a single interview scheduled in advance, we somehow got interviews with Lynn Swann and Sean Salisbury and others before calling it quits that night.
That evening, Jacob and myself got to experience downtown for our only time and I was impressed in my short time there. However, we again didn't get back until 1 AM again, not going to bed until 2 AM.
Thursday, February 2
Another early morning resulted in us doing the whole routine over to start the day. We interviewed the Patriots again, this time just me, Jacqui, Jacob, and Rogelia. We got to interview Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, sound bites from Tom Brady, Matt Light, and Robert Kraft. A very successful morning. In the Giants session, we got an interview with Victor Cruz and other Giants.
Most of this day was spent on radio row interviews again. We again got lucky and got a great cast of Joe Theismann, Sean Salisbury, Takeo Spikes, Priest Holmes, and Miss America. We had some other lesser known people, but still very nice people. In all, the whole experience of Super Bowl week was eye-opening and an adapt or die type of atmosphere. You have to learn how everyone does things around there and adapt because, else wise, you won't be successful.
Friday, February 3
Friday was a far more calm day. We didn't meet until 9 AM, which gave us 2 hours to sleep-in. There were only media sessions for each of the head coaches to cover and we opted not to go to those. Instead, we stayed at Radio Row and filmed interviews.
The one time we did leave was when I went to cover Roger Goodell's annual press conference. Here, he took questions about the state of the NFL and the season in general. It was actually a very entertaining conference, although most of the questions were about having a team in LA and new stadiums all around the NFL (but no one mentioned the Vikings!).
I left the press conference early when Jacob text me that they had an interview with Curt Schilling scheduled. I got there right as the interview started and got my picture with him afterwards. Jacob also told me they had already interviewed Priest Holmes and had an interview with Michael Irvin scheduled.
We were very fortunate to get the interview with Irvin. The table behind us was a very prominent radio station out of Miami (I wish I had looked at their call letters). They had all the big name guests, including Tim Tebow at one point. Michael Irvin hosted a show during the day for them. The producer, in return for the generosity we showed them during the week, cut their show early so Michael could come do a quick interview with us. It was a very great experience, especially since I got my picture with him.
Speaking of Tebow, it was amazing seeing how fans reacted to him. During the week, many big name players and celebrities came through, from Adam Sandler to Michael Irvin to Brian Billick, etc. They all managed through the crowds, who were respectful and let them move around. When Tebow came through, the crowds doubled and tripled. Police were called in and three cops had to escort him around.
As for Friday, we finished with interviews with Frank Caliendo and Ben Utecht. The interview with Caliendo was hysterical and goes to show what we had to deal with this week with Wayne. I tried to remain positive all week, but sometimes he was too much.
Saturday, February 4
Saturday was a very "chill" day. We only had an awards show to cover that evening so we didn't meet at the JW until 2.
When we got to the awards show, it was another surreal moment. It was exactly like the red carpets you see for all other awards show. Unfortunately, since Wayne had registered us as a radio station, we were at the end of the red carpet in a poorly lit room, and to top it off, we were the very last people in line. The lighting was so bad, we couldn't do interviews, but tried to get b-roll of the players instead. We did get lots of pictures with players (Dwight Freeney and Jim Irsay for Jacob, Sean Payton and Joe Namath for Jacqui, Christian Ponder for me). In all, is was an awesome experience.
After the red carpet, we went down to the press room where all the players came after winning the award. That was fun as we got to interview everyone except Matt Stafford. The players we did get were big name ones too: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Terrell Suggs, Alex Smith.
That night, Wayne and Martie took us out to eat at a sports bar downtown. In a week that was very turmoil-filled (which I left out of this blog), it was nice to relax and enjoy the atmosphere for once. And there isn't any better food than free food.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a game-day credential, so I stayed at Jacob's apartment building for the game.
Nonetheless, this was the greatest week of my life. I've talked to Jacob since then and we both agree that's there's no better learning experience than being put in the situation. By that, I mean I learned more in that week of covering the Super Bowl than I did in two and a half years in school. Maybe that means I'm more of a hands-on person, but it took a while to wind down from Super Bowl week, and I'm still trying.
For anyone who wants to see pictures, it's easier to add me on Facebook because there are over 500 pictures we took and posting them here would get just a tad redundant.