1. I have one more day down in Houston, but I’m going to dedicate this Sunday NFL Thoughts post to the whirlwind known as Super Bowl media week. My goodness. This week has been an incredible mix of College Finals Week and College Frat Party and nothing was more representative than opening night.
It was a night that featured Kel Mitchell from Keenan and Kel, Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, a mustachioed Austrian reporter dressed up like Cinderella, hundreds of writers, and an even greater number of fans in the stands just watching us do our job.
There was a concert and fireworks when we were all trying to transcribe the interviews we conducted. I spoke with probably six or seven players in the two hours of availability before I realized that speaking with the players at the podiums would yield less unique material because the transcripts would be widely available online.
So I jumped in to a conversation with Atlanta Falcons TE Jacob Tamme- he’s on the injured reserve and no one was talking to him- and we spoke for 15 minutes, covering a dozen questions. I used maybe two of his answers for an article about the Falcons tight ends.
And that was probably my biggest and best lesson from media week- just go with the flow. It’s good to prepare and have stories that you want to write, and go ahead and ask those questions. But if a player becomes available, talk to them. Allow a one-off answer to spark your curiosity. And have some fun with it.
2. It was great to meet some of the players in person and Tamme is towards the top of the Best Players To Speak With list. But when you look at the Patriots, there are a ton of players that were great quotes and willing to speak with me at length about various topics.
I just wanted to give a special hat tip to a few names, so you can feel great about rooting for these players on and off the field. Everyone knows that Matthew Slater is a wonderful person, as is Devin McCourty, so here are some of the lesser known “good guys.” And take note that if I didn’t list a player, it’s not because they’re bad- it’s just that I didn’t get a chance to talk with every player.
CB Logan Ryan: Ryan was an entertaining interview who gave thorough answers and acted like a person- not a robot.
LB Kyle Van Noy: Van Noy said he just needed to love football again after his time in Detroit, and he seems to have found that passion in New England.
LB Elandon Roberts: Roberts kept calling me “big dog” and laughed at my bad jokes.
RB Coach Ivan Fears: Fears was my first one-on-one interview with the Patriots and you could tell how much he loves his players. All kindness.
LB Coach Brian Flores: Flores is going to be an incredible head coach.
Defensive Coordinator Matthew Patricia: If you watch the post-game locker room videos, you’ll see Patricia interacting with every player- from the practice squad offensive lineman to the veteran linebacker. He’s as genuine in person as you would expect.
3. Houston is an incredible city, if you ever get a chance to visit. It is the 4th largest city in the United States from a population and a land mass standpoint, so it takes a really long time to get places. Also rush hour traffic seems to last from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM. But the area is lovely and the food is excellent.
WR Danny Amendola recommends that you go to Pappasito’s. I can confirm it’s delicious.
4. One aspect of the experience that kind of stuck out in an uncomfortable way was the usage of police escort for the media. I don’t mean in a good or bad way, it was just weird. Most of the media events took place downtown in a convention center, but the Patriots press conferences were a 10 mile drive away at the team hotel.
The Atlanta Falcons are the “home” team in the playoffs, which meant they get first pick at practice time and they opted to practice in the early morning. This meant that the Patriots had to practice in the late morning or early afternoon, and head coach Bill Belichick opted for the early afternoon. This pushed our press conferences to 4:30 PM local time, in the heart of rush hour traffic.
As a result, we had police escorts leading the way so we could drive from the convention center to the Patriots team hotel. It seemed kind of unnecessary, and I had to laugh at kids that waited for the buses at the hotel, only to see a bunch of journalists pouring out of the bus. That had to be a slight disappointment.
Of course that won’t stop be from having the police escort en route to the stadium today. But it still feels weird.
5. I have to give serious props to all the writers that do this every year because this is an exhausting experience. We’ve been busy on what seems like 20 hour days and even if you’re not working, you still have to be switched on because you’re surrounded by NFL players, your peers, your competition, and all the potential opportunity that entails.
I’ve had an amazing week. I’m also looking forward to sleeping for longer than 5 hours at a time.
6. Special thanks to NESN’s Doug Kyed for letting me tag along, along with NESN’s Zack Cox, MassLive’s Kevin Duffy, ProJo’s Mark and Becky Daniels, the Globe’s Nora Princiotti, the Herald’s Jeff Howe, SB Nation’s Charlotte Wilder, and everyone else that made this truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Unless the Patriots make it back next year- which is more probable than not.