WRITERS BETTER BE GAME TO WEATHER SUPER BLITZ

MINNEAPOLIS — I am greeted at the airport by yellow balloons and a woman with a name tag, who smiles and says “You here for the game?” I say yes and she points to the coordinator. He smiles and says “You here for the game?” I say yes and he points to a the bus driver. “You here for the game?” the bus driver says.

I say yes. He waves me on.

I am a sports writer.

This is the Super Bowl.

At the media hotel, I am checked in by a man wearing a Redskins cap. My baggage is taken by a bellman in a Bills cap. The place is buzzing. The gift shop is crowded. ESPN is broadcasting live, in the lobby, and camera lights illuminate the walls. I step into the elevator, I nod at the bellman.

“You here for the game?” he asks.

I am a sports writer.

This is the Super Bowl.

At the media check-in center, I am processed and photographed. “Smile!” says the man behind the camera, and in 60 seconds, my face is pressed in plastic and hanging from my neck. They hand me a briefcase full of information, media guides, schedules, brochures. I head to my room to study the info. Every year at this time, I become a student again, a college student with a big pile of books.

Wait. Here is something from my “Minnesota Fact Sheet”: More than one-third of state residents have fishing licenses.

I make note of that. You never know . . .

I am a sports writer.

This is the Super Bowl.

40 degrees and counting

In the morning, I board the bus for the first “interview opportunity” I take my seat alongside countless other reporters, who fill up countless other buses. “How you like the weather?” the driver says. “Going up to 40 today!”

We say that’s great.

When we reach the stadium, we march up the hill, men and women, pot-bellies and skinny legs, computers and cameras and tape recorders. We are here to talk to football players. At the entrance, a man smiles and greets us.

“How do you like this weather?” he says. “Going up to 40 today!”

We say that’s great.

Soon we are on the field, an army of reporters. And the Buffalo players are brought in and directed to their places. The popular ones get their own podium with their names hung above it. The unknowns can go wherever they want.

“Anybody? Anybody?” yells a player wearing No. 26, waving his arms, hoping to be interviewed. At least 100 reporters walk right past him. I check my media guide. There is no No. 26.

Jim Kelly, the quarterback, has the biggest crowd and Thurman Thomas, the running back, has the next biggest crowd. They are surrounded, but they are also wired with small microphones, hooked up to distant speakers, and some reporters simply stand by the speakers and write things down. They call this journalism. I call it an interview with a Bose 901. But that’s just me.

I wander over to Scott Norwood, the kicker who missed the field goal in last year’s Super Bowl. I want to ask a question. I can’t. Right now, Scott is being interviewed by (Downtown) Julie Brown, a British-born MTV personality. Julie Brown is not a sports writer. In fact, she knows nothing about football. But she is wearing black leather pants and a pink Lycra body top with conical breast holders like Madonna wears in concert. She goes where she wants.

“Tell me, Scott,” Julie says, in her funny accent, ” ‘ow do you prepare for the Super Bowl? Do you walk on hot coals to toughen yaw foot?”

Scott says, “No, not really.”

Scott has the humor of a carp. Get me to the game on time

After an hour of this, the Bills leave and the Redskins arrive. They take their places, find their podiums. Mark Rypien, the quarterback, has the biggest crowd. I watch a group of Japanese reporters try to interview a Washington defensive lineman.

“We speak English no good,” they say.

“Me neither,” he says.

Oops. Our time is up. A voice booms over the loudspeakers “ALL MEDIA EXIT THROUGH GATE B.” We walk back to the busses, our notepads full of scribble. Most of it is useless. Mine reads like this: “Julie . . . hot coals, #26 . . . Japanese . . . gryzph . . . mm! . . . dry cleaning . . . Bose 901.”

“How do you like this weather?” the bus driver says. “Going up to 40 today!”

Back in the hotel I wade through the lobby, past the sea of fans and high-rollers and gawkers watching ESPN. I know from my briefcase full of information that I could visit the Ice Palace or the Winter Carnival or the brand new Skyways. I could interview Gloria Estefan or the master chef of the Super Bowl’s “Taste Of The NFL” event.

I also know, thanks to my fact sheet, that Minnesotans have the third-highest SAT scores in the nation. I am not sure what to do with that.

I go to my room. I write my column. I am a sports writer. This is the Super Bowl. I get undressed and check the schedule for tomorrow.

“I’d like to leave a wake-up call,” I say to the operator. “For 7 a.m.”

“You here for the game?” she says.

“Yes,” I say. “When does it start?”

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