On Your Marc 2/16/16

The truth about game day

Super Bowl is just as fun from the couch

By Marc Katz

Don’t be jealous.

I’ve been to a Super Bowl (one of 50), and while I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to another, I wouldn’t lobby for it, either.

It’s the same for any big-time sporting event—the World Series, Olympics, U.S. Open (tennis and golf), Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500 and I suppose things like World Cup Soccer, although, maybe not.

Stop. Don’t email me about your love for soccer. I get it. You moved here from Argentina, and you brought your love of soccer with you.

I haven’t quite caught on yet, but I, uh, maybe I will.

Anyway, this is about covering big events. The idea of being there is great. Actually being there—in a working capacity—is something else.

Big events lure media. In my time as an active sports writer, that meant mostly newspapers, television and radio. Anybody with a pencil, pen, tape recorder or camera was welcome.

It’s not what you think. Sure, you get to talk to the athletes and coaches and there’s a huge media buffet two days before the game, but the average fan with his over-priced ticket arrives at the game a half hour early, has something to eat and drink—or, at an NFL game, drink and drink—and when the game’s over, goes home or out to a nice meal.

A reporter arrives two to three hours before and stays three to four hours after each game. A lot of times, in cold climates, the press box heat isn’t even kept on.

But we’re talking about the Super Bowl, and since I didn’t cover much pro football, I wasn’t assigned until 1989, when I was asked to take the place of a female staffer who couldn’t go after her mother took ill.

It happened that my seven-months pregnant wife, two children and I had planned a weekend at a hotel with an indoor swimming pool in Toledo, where we would meet with some of my wife’s family from Detroit.

On Saturday night, I’d slip up to Ann Arbor for an Ohio State/Michigan basketball game, which meant I didn’t have to waste a vacation day.

If the game I was now asked to cover had been a regular-season Bengals at, say, Steelers game, missing the mini family reunion might not have worked.

It was the Super Bowl, Bengals vs. 49ers. Permission from home was granted.

Anyone under the age of 40 isn’t going to understand this next part, but it happened. I used the airline ticket of my female colleague, never changing the name on it, and made it to and from Miami with only one problem. Officials at the Miami airport didn’t want to let me go home with the ticket I had until I pointed out they let me use it to get there.

At the hotel—and it was a nice place—no problem at all.

The weather was spectacular. The weather in Dayton (and Toledo) was … well, what’s it look like out there now?

The media crush was not fun. On interview days, the NFL would stuff us—hundreds of us—into small spaces, eliciting “moo” calls, until we were let onto the stadium surface, where platforms were set up for the players. That’s right, everybody flocked to Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Most other players talked to themselves.

Cramped conditions made it almost mandatory to write back at the hotel, and one day I tried to work poolside.

That’s where a typewriter would have been handier than a computer, and a class in etiquette would have been beneficial when I called my wife.

I told her the glare from the sun prevented me from seeing much on my computer screen, and the sun tan lotion was causing my fingers to slide off the computer keys.

Ooh, I almost had to take the next flight home.

On game day, the two things I remember were the servers from a chicken-wings-and-beer national chain restaurant selling the game programs. They were wearing their usual costumes. I knew I had a free program waiting at my seat, but the temptation was there to buy about 10 more, you know?

As an “extra” reporter, I had one of the “auxiliary” seats. That means a stadium seat with a board hooked onto the seat in front of you. There was just enough space on the board for a computer. Notebooks and a box lunch were for your lap. Replays were on the stadium screen.

In order to get to the interviews at the end of the game, you had to wade through the crowd, meaning you had to leave before the game was actually over to get there. I saw Montana’s winning pass to John Taylor in the hallway monitor outside the interview room.

When I returned to my seat to write my story, most of the people in the stadium were already gone. All that was left was the sun long gone, and our media seats, surrounded by trash.

A bus waited outside the stadium to shuttle reporters back to their hotels.

The Bengals have won only one playoff game since, and I’ve watched every Super Bowl, from my—or someone else’s—couch.

I cherish the in-place memory, but there’s a better way.

 

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com. 

 

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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