Media Day was transformed into Opening Night for Super Bowl 50 but the switch to prime time did nothing to change the zany tone on Monday as super models and super heroes mingled with giants of sports journalism.
The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, who clash on Sunday for the National Football League championship, kicked off Super Bowl week taking turns diving into the anything-goes media mosh pit to face questions both serious and utterly bizarre.
Originally designed as a mid-day opportunity for reporters to fill their notebooks, Media Day has morphed into an prime-time, money making spectacle.
Cross-dressers and orange leprechauns stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Hall of Fame broadcasters and bestselling authors shouting out questions watched by thousands of fans who paid $27 to take in the spectacle.
At a time when journalism jobs are being lost, some were finding work on the floor of the SAP Center as puppets, clowns and an Austria ski racer – complete with skis, helmet and race suit – moonlighting as sports reporters.
“It’s the 50th Super Bowl, so I thought I would show Americans our favorite sport,” said Phillip Hajszan, holding skis in one hand and a microphone in other. “It’s about bringing Austria to the Super Bowl.
“Other years I have come as Mozart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and once I wore lederhosen.”
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, taking part in his fourth Media Day, looked out on hundreds of reporters and faced the predictable questions about his playing future and another from a Mexican puppet about his favorite food and answered both with equal amounts of good nature.
The NFL Network gave the evening the full prime time treatment.
There were glitzy introductions, plenty of thumping music and thousands of media members with Japan, Britain, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and other countries represented, all happily playing the part of extras, providing the necessary backdrop to the NFL showcase.
The NFL has made no noticeable effort to clamp down on the irreverent vibe and seems content for one day at least to let non-traditional media have a piece of the Super Bowl pie.
For Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, whose alter ego is Superman, the Super Bowl Media Night hoopla was to be expected.
“The media frenzy is probably bigger than I expected but yet it’s the Super Bowl, the most impactful game in all of sports as you can see,” said Newton.