Super Bowl 50 Opening Night was held Monday at the SAP Center, the home to the San Jose Sharks. This event is a big deal for many people around the US — and it was for me, too. I was there to cover Media Day, and I loved it.
When I got to the SAP Center, I was struck by the frenzy of fans showing their spirit. A group of 8-10 people played Taiko drums right outside the stadium. Inside the stadium, things were even crazier. The spectacle was deserving of the event.
I went on to the “ice”, which was covered by carpet and thick paneling, and saw tons of people in the stands, including Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach. People were either booing the players or cheering them on, making it impossible to hear them.
While I was waiting for the press interviews to start, I got to meet Miss Universe. She was there reporting for Inside Edition. She was fun to talk to, and was, well, gorgeous. I was as excited as a little kid in a toy store. This is her first Super Bowl, and she hoped to take the excitement back home. “The interest in football is still growing in Philippines,” she said. “And hopefully with me here, the Filipinos will have more interest in it.”
Denver Broncos players were the first to meet the media. There were about eight pods on the floor where Peyton Manning, Aqib Talib, coach Gary Kubiak, and others did simultaneous interviews. Manning was swarmed by media, and most journalists were curious about his retirement. There were walls of people 10-15 deep with cameras at ever turn. It was hard to hear him since I found myself surrounded by people who were more than a foot taller than me.
It only made the experience more enjoyable that every time Peyton Manning finished answering a question, the press would scream, “Peyton, Peyton,” as loudly as they could, trying to get his attention. I tried asking him a question — but my voice was drowned out by other reporters.
During the break, I talked to other members of the media. Some of them were dressed up in elaborate costumes: a Broncos Leprechaun, a clown-chef, a man in an orange morphsuit, a guy with his head completely inside a football, and many others. Then there was Phillip Hajszan, a reporter from Austria who was walking around in full ski gear to represent his home country. “I decided to bring the favorite sport of my country to the favorite sport of this country,” he said.
My favorite was Pick Boy from Nickelodeon, who wore a gold-and-black superhero outfit. Turns out, Pick Boy is actually actor Jeff Sutphen. Since he was very amusing, we decided that he would replace Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show, and I would be his handy sidekick, kind of like Steve Higgins!
After the break, it was the Panthers’ turn to meet the press. Cam Newton was mobbed. In his flashy style, he wore his Super Bowl 50 commemorative towel around his head for the whole interview. He was asked about Donald Trump, the $850 gold and black Versace pants he wore on the flight to California, his car crash last year, Peyton Manning, and his dancing and celebrations in the end-zone.
This time, I was better prepared and knew that you had to fight to get the players attention. I got to talk to Coach Rivera and many other players.
With the help of Pickboy, I asked Cam Newton a question and did not have to scream over the press. He had some valuable advice for kids interested in football.
“I tell kids that the oval-shaped pigskin can take you a lot of places,” Newton said. “I have been to the White House, to Australia… If a kid finds a passion for doing something, they will get compensated for doing it and it will take them a lot of places.”
After the event was over, I felt exhilarated and exhausted. I learned a lot about what it takes to prepare for the Super Bowl. But I can only imagine how the players felt. Not only did they have to take a bunch of questions from every direction, they tried to stay in the moment and soak it all in — all while keeping a keen eye towards their main task at hand: a victory on Super Bowl Sunday.
Photos: Manat Kaur