By Art Spander, The Sports Xchange – UPI
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — It was just a few hours for the other town, the one usually tacked on the end of the dateline, was now able to stand alone, and be mentioned by itself for the lunacy that is the runup to America’s-maybe, the free world’s-national holiday, the Super Bowl.
The contestants, the journalists, the public, paying for the experience, crossed the river, the mighty Mississippi, so on Monday, Saint Paul would have its few moments of fame, detached in effect from Minneapolis for what used to be known as Media Day and is now called “Opening Night.”
Opening Night is for the opera on a Broadway show, not a pro football game, but the league paid zillions by the TV nets, gets what it wants, and obviously what it wants is a sanitized promotion, where never is heard a discouraging word. In truth, with the crowd gathered around Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, even encouraging words — assuming he said them — were barely heard.
The NFL’s last great commissioner, Pete Rozelle, responded to media reports long ago that the game already was too large and overwhelming.
“All we are is entertainment,” he said.
So there was Brady, cleverly wearing black gloves, the better not to show his injured right hand. The aphorism that a picture is worth 10,000 words? Not in this case.
Brady, as expected, was the center of attention when the Patriots were in focus. A few hours earlier, before the Pats left Boston, he cut off his weekly show on WEEI after one of the station’s announcers, Alex Reimer, alluding to a documentary, “Tom vs. Time,” belittled Brady’s 6-year-old daughter. Reimer’s show ran Thursday, four days before Brady’s show.
After saying Monday he was reconsidering whether to continue his own show, Brady, on Opening Night at the Xcel Center, said, “I didn’t hear too much about it. I didn’t get into it much. I certainly hope the guy (Reimer) is not fired.
“I just know everybody is real protective of their kids. I never stayed away from criticism. I understand that criticism is part of sports. But I certainly don’t think that my children or anybody else’s children deserve to be in that. And that’s what I said.”
So, something serious did take place. If it didn’t deal with football — so how is that right hand, anyway, Tom? — then better for everyone concerned. The show that is the Super Bowl, like Tolstoy’s description of the Russian Army rolls forward unstoppable no matter who’s in charge.
Remember when somebody claimed “NFL stands for No Fun League?” Well, the would-be comedians have returned, if behind the microphones and notepads. More than 5,000 media credentials were issued for the week, although not all are good for the game. Some people, mostly from countries outside the United States, just want to get noticed.
One of those was Phillip Halszen, who, as the letters hinted on the football jersey he wore — over shoulder pads — is from Austria. He was having a grand old time, unconcerned with Brady’s hand but very concerned about getting interviewed by others.
And then there was a guy on a ladder who yelled at Brady, “How do you get your teeth so white?” Tom just smiled, which you might say would be the appropriate answer.
The stars. Brady, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sit on raised chairs. Others, such as tackle Nate Solder, are doomed to be on the floor with the media, subject to interviews one-on-one. Dumb ones.
Some young man, reading from a sheet of paper, questioned Solder whether tortillas and beans and brussels sprouts was a real dish. Solder said it wasn’t. The kid said it was.
Nancy Kerrigan, the figure skater back in the news with the release of the film, “I, Tonya,” about Tonya Harding, who had Kerrigan injured before the 1994 Winter Olympics, was part of the media Monday, holding a microphone that had the label “Inside Edition.” Kerrigan at least is from New England.
A woman from the Golf Channel asked Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan to name his “favorite Tiger moment.” One assumes she meant Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, not the University of Missouri or Memphis State.
Then there was J.B. Smoove, who plays Leon on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and was interviewing players for the Rich Eisen Show. First, he was interviewed laying on the ground by Dave Stevens of The Disability Channel, who doesn’t have legs.
Later, Smoove asked Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks, whether he actually cooks. His answer sounded as if he had mouthful of, well, not brussels sprouts.