Welcome to media day, the annual Super Bowl circus.
It seems fitting this event was held at a hockey rink, of all places, because there’s nothing ordinary about it. More than 6,000 journalists, pseudojournalists and other credentialed “media” from all over the world gathered at the home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils on Tuesday to meet the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
Strange questions were the norm instead of football ones. A man asked Seahawks center Max Unger if he could touch his long, scruffy beard. He said yes. A woman asked Seahawks defensive lineman Brandon Mebane for a kiss. He said no.
Perhaps the only player who felt at home was Seattle tight end Luke Willson. He grew up in Canada, played hockey through his sophomore year of high school and was genuinely psyched to be in an NHL arena.
“I thought it was kind of cool to be here,” said Willson, a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I was a left winger, grinding forward-type of guy. I have two brothers and we would play on the street in front of the house, go to spring camps, played all the time. I played a lot of hockey.”
Asked if any of his teammates could lace up the skates, Wilson was brutally honest: “No, definitely not. No way.”
Unger, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound lineman, played roller hockey long before he packed on the pounds for a career in the NFL.
“This is an awesome venue, seems like a great place to play hockey,” he said. “I watch a little bit of hockey. We have the Vancouver Canucks up the road.”
Coincidentally, while football players spent their day at the rink, a couple of New York hockey teams prepared to play an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers and Islanders will continue the NHL’s Stadium Series in the Bronx on Wednesday night.
Seahawks defensive end Benson Mayowa isn’t a fan of the sport, but he appreciates the toughness of hockey players.
“Only thing I like to watch in hockey is fights,” he said. “But they do get physical, they lose teeth, get stitched up and come back out there. It’s the same as football.”
But hockey has nothing like this on its calendar.
The media day extravaganza is one of the wildest scenes in sports. Even current football players were in on the “reporting” action. Eagles Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson co-hosted a show for BET. Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel interviewed players for a shampoo promotion.
“This is pretty crazy, man. Pretty crazy,” Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson said. “I saw Waldo. I saw the superhero. They told us there were going to be people dressed up, but you never really know what to expect until you see them.”
Of course, a few celebrities also took part in the spectacle. Actor Nick Cannon wore a Peyton Manning jersey. Michelle Williams, a former Destiny’s Child singer, asked players to sing.
But the most popular person was Lil Terrio, who became famous for posting his “Ohhh, kill ’em” dance online. Players stopped to pose for pictures with him, interrupted their interviews to call him over and everyone who recognized him asked him to dance.
Several players captured the craziness on video. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many players who may never get another chance to play in a Super Bowl.
As for players, Manning and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman were surrounded by the biggest throng of reporters. Manning deftly evaded questions about his “legacy” and Sherman was so eager to talk that he showed up early for his 60-minute session.
“I wanted to share the experience with my family,” said Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who wore Google Glass and a Go Pro camera on his hat. “I wanted them to get some of the behind-the-scenes footage and see what it’s like. It’s my way of giving back and sharing with them.”
Speaking of sharing, it was a no-brainer for the Devils to share their building with the NFL on the biggest day ahead of the Big Game.
“This is a 24-7 operation,” said Scott O’Neil, chief executive officer of the Devils, Philadelphia 76ers and Prudential Center. “We have 200 events here a year and this is one of them. It’s just with a huge media spotlight on it."