HOUSTON – Tuesday was media day at the Super Bowl which is good, because we are with the media. Of course, with over 3,200 credentials issued by the league office, this is not exactly an exclusive club.
For anyone who wasn't there, the NFL basically trots out every single player, coach and owner of each team for one hour and they answer questions from everyone who has gathered here to cover the game.
The most popular players are up on little stages. The regular guys just mill around. Although it is often decried by the media (go figure) because it is too crowded, it works pretty well. There are some good questions, some dumb questions and plenty of silly ones from pseudo-media such as "The Pickman" of Nickelodeon or Warren Sapp, who is working for the NFL Network.
At one point Tuesday, in a role reversal, Sapp (the player) was interviewing Rich Eisen (the television journalist). It seemed like the main line of questioning involved Sapp making fun of Eisen's hair.
It all works great for the NFL, which gets incredible exposure around the world.
"The coolest thing is the foreign press," said Carolina center Jeff Mitchell. "It amazes me people in Europe and all over the world want to know about the game."
But they do. Last year's game was seen in 222 countries, and 10 nations sent their own broadcast teams. One hundred thirty-seven foreign media organizations received credentials. Media outlets such as ESPN, CNN or, indeed, Yahoo! Sports are based domestically but reach global audiences.
Which doesn't mean some of the players didn't struggle with foreign accents. Or some of them weren't taken aback by the male Dutch television reporter who asked about their sensitive side – "I can cry if you want me too," joked Panther tackle Matt Willig before requesting a hug.
Although no one had any complaints with some of the Euro-television babes.
The problem is you never know what is coming at you. A kid journalist from Nickelodeon sprung a spelling bee on Troy Brown. The Patriots receiver properly spelled "Delhomme" but then got hit with "Massachusetts," which is only the state he's lived in (at least part time) for the last 11 years.
"M-A-S-S-U ..." Brown said slowly. Everyone laughed.
"Oh, I misspelled it," he said not even sounding embarrassed. "It's always been just MA for me."
Which goes to show that, while there aren't any writers capable of playing in the NFL, there aren't many players capable of writing a column, either.
Some players weren't too into the questions. Others wouldn't shut up, even after the allotted time ended. If you want to know why you see some players and not others on TV or in articles all the time, this is why.
"I really don't get into it," Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers said. "I'm not a real media guy. That's Jake [Delhomme]."
So we went over to hear Delhomme, who was entertaining a huge throng by humorously defending his little, and much publicized, Louisiana Bayou hometown of Breaux Bridge.
"Everyone says, 'Oh you've got alligators in the backyard,'" Delhomme said. "It's so not like that. There weren't any alligators. We have electricity out there. It's still part of civilization."
Then there was the Panthers' king of gab, defensive tackle Brentson Buckner, who considers talking to the media his duty but obviously enjoys every minute of it.
"I'll never stop talking," he said. "I do things guys are not comfortable doing. Julius is not comfortable doing it. [Defensive end] Mike Rucker just wants to line up and be Mike Rucker. My job is to make them as comfortable as they can be on game day. If they don't want to talk to the media, I'll do it for them."
And Brentson, 3,200 of us love you for it.
Speaking of media day, how about CBS having seven hours of pregame programming set for Sunday. We repeat: SEVEN hours.
There is an hour Nickelodeon show starting at 11 a.m.. At noon MTV's "Total Request Live" takes over for an hour. Then Phil Simms does an hour "All-Iron Team." Then by 2 p.m. we get into the four-hour "pregame show." Of course, the "pregame show" doesn't lead into the "game." Rather, it runs into the "kickoff show," which goes until the 6:25 p.m. kickoff. The real kickoff that is.
Got that? Who watches all of this stuff anyway?
Actually, the answer to that question doesn't matter. As long as the advertisements are sold, CBS is going to broadcast something. This is a business, remember. And there is no shortage of material.
"We have a lot of great features, longer pieces than normal," executive producer Tony Petitti said. "It's a different audience than watches [regular season games] on Sundays. We really do have a lot of stuff. We actually get together Saturday night and cut stuff.
"People think with all that time we would be adding stuff, but actually it is the opposite."
So, if the sales people came up with a couple more hours worth of ads, Petitti could make it work?
"We could fill it," he said.
Someone lock up the sales force.
In the interest of brevity
Then there was the conversation we had with Dick Enberg, who is a contributor to the CBS festivities and was the play-by-play man for eight Super Bowls. His most memorable Super Bowl was in 1983 when he and Merlin Olson were calling the Miami-Washington game.
That year Enberg and Olson's call was broadcast over the stadium public address system. The problem was the delay, which caused the two announcers' words to come back to them three seconds after they said them. So by the time they were finishing a sentence, they could hear the beginning of it over the P.A. Which tends to break a train of thought.
"It was just maddening. We swore some other [network] sabotaged us," Enberg said.
At the first time out Enberg tried to get the problem solved with the truck but it didn't work. At the second time out he lost it. "I let loose [with language] the oldest, nastiest sailor couldn't have come up with," he said.
But the game was also shown over satellite TV, so viewers with dishes could hear the entire rant. A writer in Texas said, "If you think Enberg is vanilla you should have heard what I heard."
In the end there was only one way to survive. "We had to speak in short sound bytes," he said. That way the echo didn't bother them; they were done with the sentence before it boomer ranged back to them. They minimized the chatter.
After the game both Enberg and Olson were crushed assuming it was the worst broadcast in Super Bowl history. But later they watched the tape.
"It turned out great," he said. "It was a wonder. By talking less, we made it a better broadcast. Which is a lesson to all of us. Now and then, let the action carry it. We all talk too much during broadcasts."
I don't believe anyone has followed this lesson.
Valued reader emails of the day
A little taste of our weekly mailbag, which will resume when I get back from Houston. Same rules apply – write in with your full name and hometown, and a point. My responses appear in italics.
Good article on BBQ places in Houston and the area (Jan. 26: Super Bowl Journal: Playing the respect card). Mount Zion has some great food, but you missed my favorite hole in the wall BBQ place: Pitt Stop Barbeque in Lufkin. Right off 69, Chuck makes the best food. Homemade rolls, the best potato salad, awesome flaming butts, and incredible brisket.
His secret? The sauces. You mentioned rubs and you got it right. He uses some Caribbean jerk rub in some of his chicken and a lot of his sauces. Invite some of them North Carolinians that like sauce so much to eat there ... but tell 'em to be ready, because its hotter than the brakes on a NASCAR stock car at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mmm ... good eatin!
Best Bar-B-Q in the city of Houston is Goode Company Bar-B-Q ... bar none. (Sorry 'bout that.) It is genuine, authentic mesquite cooked brisket and it's absolutely OUT OF THIS WORLD. Plus, it's very central ... in fact just 10 minutes from Reliant Stadium on the same street; it's on Kirby Drive just south of 59 (the Southwest Freeway). Not far at all from the Intercontinental Hotel either.
It's owned by Jim Goode who's a genuine Texas legend, and it's right next door to his "Texas Bar-B-Q Hall of Flame." Check it out! ... Thanks for the great column and kind words about Houston. Have fun in our city!)
The Texas Bar-B-Que Hall of Fame? How do we love Houston, let us count the ways. I absolutely promise to get over this museum of meat and file a report later in the week.
Enberg, who at age 69 is in his 50th year of broadcasting and is a native of tiny Armada, Mich., where he says he got a "1-2 education. We had a one-room school house and a two-hole outhouse."
Is there a more annoying television feature than when ex-players-turned-broadcasters feel the need to get out on a little mock field in overpriced suits and show us how to do some inane football task? It is just a poorly veiled way to remind everyone they played the game. The other night on "SportsCenter" Michael Irvin felt compelled to teach us what a cornerback jamming a receiver at the line of scrimmage entailed. Ah, I think "jamming a receiver at the line of scrimmage" is pretty self explanatory, don't you? It really wasn't a finer point of the game I was having trouble grasping.
I'm just hoping that later in the week somehow will show us what a "face mask" really is all about. So confusing.
Since we flew to Lubbock, Texas Monday night to attend the Texas-Texas Tech basketball game (and a great game it was), we had to catch an early flight back to Houston Tuesday morning. Which meant we were driving to the Lubbock airport at 4:45 a.m. when, naturally, the radio was playing, "All my exes live in Texas/Which is why I hang my hat in Tennessee." Simply surreal.
You can honestly say they just don't make songs like that anymore.
The highlight of the flight home was when we stopped to connect in Dallas and a half-dozen Cowboy cheerleaders (albeit in civilian attire) boarded our plane. You never saw so many sleepy businessmen perk up so fast.
Carolina center Jeff Mitchell on forgetting to bring his wallet with him to the Super Bowl: "It was in [my wife's] purse. As usual."
This Week's Sign the Apocalypse is Upon Us: The once venerable, journalistically untouchable, downright politically elitist Sports Illustrated has teamed up with "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" to put on a swimsuit fashion show.
Not that we are opposed to watching.