Excited that Indianapolis would host the big game this year, I wanted a Super Bowl XLVI experience my kids would always remember. Media Day was open to the public for the first time and seemed to fill the bill.
Our son, a high school senior aiming for telecommunications study, and our 12-year-olddaughter, a sports enthusiast, were immediately on board.
When I informed my husband I'd gotten the tickets for $25 each, supposedly in the last batch of 20 out of 7,000 tickets, he wasn't impressed.
“But I don't like either team,” he said.
“So?” I said.
He had no other argument and was probably in shock. I have little interest in football and even more limited knowledge. Still, I pressed onward.
“This may be the only chance we'll have to get this close to the Super Bowl,” I said.
We decided to go for it, even after my sister said Media Day tickets were reselling on eBay at double the price. The news reports said traffic would be horrendous, so we aimed to come in the night before to get there at 10 a.m. Tuesday.On a whim, I put out a call to my FaceBook friends asking to rent a room. I received no responses.
A couple of weeks later, I was in despair that downtown Indy hotels were charging $200 a night. I debated scalping the Media Day tickets. Late Jan. 26, I got an e-mail I didn't recognize. It read: “Cathy, were you just joking about needing a room to rent for the Super Bowl weekend?”
Rick Barry, president of a writing group I'm in called American Christian Fiction Writers, had sent it. Although we had never met, we each took a chance, hammered out the details and our family stayed in his two guest bedrooms Monday night for a fraction of a hotel fee. Plus, Rick agreed to drive us downtown on Media Day and pick us up afterward.Stepping into downtown Indianapolis Monday at 6:30 p.m. was like going to a party where the hosts are as excited as you are. The huge, illuminated letters of XLVI setting on Monument Circle set the tone, and a crowd had gathered there with everyone snapping photos. Friendly volunteers were everywhere and happy to answer questions.
The downtown Carson's store had painted football figures with shopping bags in the windows. A giant mural of Peyton Manning, with the owner of Papa John's pizza, covered one building. Small signs had renamed all the streets for NFL teams.
In the Super Bowl Village, heaters hung above our heads to add warmth, although the weather was mild and they weren't turned on until late in the evening. Having people hanging upside down and whizzing by overhead on the zipline was even more thrilling in person than on TV.At the NFL Experience, we were barely in the door when there was some kind of disturbance. We were told to clear the way and there were a handful of policemen. I assumed someone had succumbed to the excitement.
Nope. Ex-NFL player Michael Irvin was coming through. My son had thought someone was injured, too. We should have known NFL players are royalty at the NFL Experience. Next, we fit our hands in molds of the handprints of stars.
“His hand's not that big,” said my husband about the mold of Warren Sapp, who played 13 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Bucaneers.
A majority of people wore Colts shirts, and many of them said Manning. You couldn't help feel a little sadness wondering if this event would be Manning's Swan Song.
My daughter, Katelyn, and husband chose to participate in one of the many games, Quarterback Challenge. They threw a football at a cut-out figure of a football player waving a hoop back and forth. At Quick Release, she was pleased when her throw hit the target.The next morning, Media Day took place at Lucas Oil Stadium, on the field where the Super Bowl game will happen. Everyone received a free pull-string bag with the Super Bowl KLVI Media Day logo on it.
Several items were inside — most importantly, a gadget called a life sports radio FM dual scan.
Initially, the field was simply crowded with people. We were midway up in the seats. Then Tom Brady's team (New England Patriots) came onto the field, and the electronics took on new meaning.
Six players sat at their own interview stations, and their own radio channel numbers were flashed on the big screen. You hooked the little radio piece over your ear, chose a channel for the person you liked, and it was as though he were answering interview questions just for you.
Without consulting one another, we all chose Tom Brady. Even someone who barely knows where the goalposts are realizes many people despise the Patriots. One guy in the audience wore a shirt that said, “Even Jesus hates the Patriots.”Still, the sound of Tom Brady laughing in your ear and saying stuff like, “I don't want to throw any interceptions,”is mesmerizing.
He talked about his boyhood trips with his family to the Super Bowl and dreaming that his day would come. He couldn't answer a question about a TV show because his kids have him watching Dora the Explorer.
Brady and other players also said many positive things.
“Don't ever let anyone tell you you can't do anything you want to do,” Brady said. “Be confident so others will be confident in themselves.”
It's hard not to like a guy like that. When he wished Peyton well, some of the crowd cheered.
An hour later, Eli Manning and his team came in, and my family and I all automatically switched on to his channel. He spent a lot of time talking about Peyton, more than he seemed to want to.
No, he hasn't seen Peyton and is staying with his team. When they go home, they still sleep in bunk beds, and he's tired of Peyton always getting to sleep on the top. That got a laugh. I switched to Wes Welker's channel for a little bit and he was fun, too.
Brady has his charm, but the Manning brothers will always have my heart. After all, I am from Indiana and I don't have to be a football “fan” to have my favorite players.It was unique to hear the players talk so much on various topics.
But I had expected Media Day planners to engage the fans in the event and at least film some antics for viewing on the big screen. Just token announcements were made on the screen, such as ESPN's Rick Riley speaking.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said some things, and most of them praised Indianapolis, ignoring that multi-million-dollar athletes were being interviewed on the field. Nothing about the media interviewing the players, in their private spots on the field, was adjusted for the “fans” sitting there watching in the stands.
The quality souvenir bags and the little radios were nice touches, but this fell short of fans truly experiencing Super Bowl Media Day.The beautiful city of Indianapolis, on display with unique activities that encouraged participation, far outshined Super Bowl Media Day. And it didn't have to be that way.
I've never been so proud of a city as I am of Indianapolis. The city looks clean and beautiful and the signs of hospitality are everywhere. More than one volunteer said, “Have a super day!”
They've done our state proud.
Super Bowl fun*Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
*Super Bowl Village and NFL Experience activities continue today through Saturday in downtown Indianapolis. For details, go to www.indianapolissuperbowl.com.