As Always, Super Bowl XLIV Media Day a Crazy, Memorable Experience
MIAMI – Pat McAfee had seen it all before.
But while McAfee, a rookie punter for the Colts said while that was true – while he knew a little about what to expect Tuesday; the cameras, the cacophony, the chaos – it was just as true that although he had seen it before, he never had seen it like this.
Not up close. Not in person.
Not as a participant.
And because this was Super Bowl Media Day – a day unique in professional sand American media – McAfee and other Colts players said this was very much a day for remembering, for experiencing, and for . . . and, well, basically just appreciating the moment.
"It's amazing," McAfee said Tuesday as the AFC South Champion Colts (16-2) prepared to play the NFC Champion Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV Sunday evening.
"Looking around, it's like a big zoo – a big petting zoo. It's obviously fun to see all these different cultures. I talked to a German reporter, a Spanish reporter. It's a good time. I'm trying to take it all in – my first year, first Super Bowl."
Such was the reaction from Colts players on Tuesday.
Many Colts veterans – 19 active players, several more on injured reserve – already had experienced Media Day before, three years ago at what was then Dolphin Stadium and is now Sun Life Stadium. Three years ago, five days before the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Media Day was outside on a day so hot middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett recalled Tuesday he needed sun block. A lot of it.
Tuesday, the threat of rain forced Media Day inside the stadium, to an upper concourse.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said he was disappointed the venue had to be moved.
"It is fun to be out there in that stadium," he said. "I understand they had to make the call weather-wise to move it in here. I think all our players and I am sure the Saints players have our fingers crossed that the weather will be good on Sunday, no matter what happens during the week.
"But Picture Day (the team's official Super Bowl photograph) will be outside so we'll get a little chance to be on the field and experience it and sort of get that feeling of what the environment is going to be like next Sunday."
The rains didn't come Tuesday in South Florida until well after the Colts finished interviews, but some of the weirdness and side-show atmosphere that many young players have grown accustomed to watching on ESPN and the NFL Network did, providing for several memorable scenes.
There was McAfee, interviewing a sunglasses-clad Tim Jennings for a local television station, then jumping onto a podium to ask a question of Clint Session.
There was linebacker Freddy Keiaho, filming part of Session's interview session on a hand-held video camera.
There was Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, being interviewed by a "news" team from a South Florida elementary school.
The day was about more than the curiosity of the media with the players, and vice versa. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon spoke at length, retelling the story of his Haitian roots, and the impact the recent earthquake has had on him, his family, that nation. He wore a Haitian flag as a bandanna, part of his recent effort to raise awareness about the troubles there.
The biggest crowds were in expected places – around the podiums of Manning, Head Coach Jim Caldwell and defensive end Dwight Freeney, the lattter of whom addressed for the first time publicly the ankle injury he sustained in the AFC Championship Game.
The rookies and younger players, the ones who hadn't experienced the scene personally, shared McAfee's view – that it was indeed a spectacle, just as they had seen on television.
The veterans said while it was never something to which you grow accustomed, part of Super Bowl week is handling the scene correctly.
"We're inside, but it's a very similar environment – the craziness of all the questions," Brackett said. "Experiencing it a few years ago makes it a little bit easier. Last time it was pretty impressive to see all those people. Once you see it once you kind of get used to it.
"The shock factor has gone down a little bit experiencing it the second time."
Said Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, "The difference is we are older and we are comfortable now. We come here and there is no shock factor there because we know pretty much how things go and take it pretty much one day at a time.
"It is not easy because you still have all the butterflies and the anticipation with all the media. We are just taking it all in."
Taking it in, too – albeit with decidedly different perspective – was Colts guard Kyle DeVan.
A year ago, DeVan watched the Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Arizona. He didn't watch Media Day, but he said he certainly remembers where he was – living with his parents, looking for a substitute teaching job. He played for the Boise Burn four games, signed with the Colts, and will start Sunday.
"A year ago, if someone would have asked me if I'd be playing in the Super Bowl today – there's no way," DeVan said. "There would be no chance. That's how special this is."
Looking around the room near the end of the Colts' hour session, DeVan said, "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know there would be a big room like this with millions of reporters. I didn't know what to expect."
But McAfee said even having a vague idea doesn't fully prepare a player for seeing it up close and in person.
"The way NFL Network is now, you see everything," McAfee said. "I watched this growing up. Considering I'm not a reporter and probably never will be, it's my only chance to be inside here. It's a really cool feeling. You see some very interesting people here. It's a really good people-watching place."