HOUSTON — “This is the best,” Devonta Freeman said Monday, sitting on a platform at Opening Night at the Super Bowl. “This is the best, to be here.”
For a player, it probably is. For a working journalist, this quasi-Media Night is closer to the worst.
I know, I know. I’m getting paid to stay in a nice hotel and cover the local team in the Super Bowl, so I should stop my grousing — right? My rejoinder: I was handed a pair of orange earplugs on the way in — “It’s going to be loud,” the dispensing lady said of the halftime show (!!!!) — and there you had it. On a night where players meet the media and you’re trying to hear what they say, you need something to curtail the noise. Good grief.
I listened to Freeman because his agent, Kristin D. Campbell, had sparked the first Falcons kerfuffle of Super Bowl week by suggesting to NFL.com that the Falcons need to make Freeman one of the NFL’s highest-paid running backs. This wasn’t the greatest bit of timing: What was Freeman going to do, sit out the Super Bowl? Was this member of Dan Quinn’s “Brotherhood” putting himself above his brethren?
But, as esteemed colleague D. Orlando Ledbetter reports, the Falcons have placated Freeman by promising to take care of him over the offseason. No harm, no foul. On with the, er, show.
“I need to maximize this opportunity,” Freeman said. “I want to be a national Super Bowl winner. That’s all I’m thinking about.”
And the week for him? “Straight focus.” (Well, except for the stuff with his agent.) “I’m blocking out all the other stuff. I’m just excited. All you guys (meaning us media types) — I love it. I love it.”
As for Opening Night: I didn’t love it. I kind of hated it. It’s crowded and loud and rather random. Apart from 10 designated names afforded a podium, all other coaches and players were essentially left to roam. (As I type, I’m sitting 20 feet from Kyle Shanahan, who’s sitting on the railing down what would be the third-base line at Minute Maid Park were the Astros playing.)
But the week should get better from here. What was formerly known as Media Day was always the nadir of Super coverage, and it has been rendered exponentially worse by its reinvention as prime time TV. But we print folks have been raging against television for 50 years, and we never had a chance in that fight. TV pays the bills. We don’t. End of story.
And now I eagerly await the Opening Night appearance of Bill Belichick, the life of every party. If he says, “This is the best,” I will faint dead away.
Update: Someone asked Belichick about his hot tub routine. You’ll not be shocked to learn that Belichick looked at the questioner for three seconds before mumbling, “I don’t know.”
A reporter from Alaska asked if he knew there was such a thing as Bill Belichick underwear. “I must have missed that somehow,” he said. The reporter then said that she’s a Patriots fan and wears her Belichick underwear during every game. Belichick responded that he’s not superstitious, “with all due respect.”
And you wonder why I hate Media Day/Opening Night. Ye gods.