Media Day

Ah, Miami. Land of palm trees, sultry weather, bare flesh and breast implants. Little wonder that the National Football League has selected the city to host the Super Bowl a record-tying nine times, including this one. For the past four and a half years, I’ve been NEWSWEEK’s bureau chief down here. I’ve covered hurricanes, election fiascoes and a variety of sordid, surreal, only-in-Florida stories. Now, thankfully, I get to cover something a little more fun: America’s premier sporting event.

Starting today, and continuing until Game Day, I’ll be your roving correspondent in this football-crazed city crawling with celebrities and frenzied fans. Don’t expect sharp analysis—I’ll leave that to my esteemed colleagues who are much better equipped to deliver it. Instead, I’ll offer a daily diary of snapshots from the plenitude of events—from the cheesy to the extravagant­—building up to Sunday. Come along for the ride.

It’s a ritual of every Super Bowl. On Media Day, players and the press meet at the stadium to engage in probing repartee. I arrive at Dolphin Stadium on Tuesday for the 10 a.m. session with the Chicago Bears. Down on the field, hundreds of reporters swarm around. The players in highest demand sit at podiums along the length of the field, while others sit in the stands. Quarterback Rex Grossman has a crowd five deep. One reporter asks him if it’s a dream to be here. “Yeah, it’s definitely a dream,” Grossman replies. Another asks if Sunday will be a big game. “Yeah, it’s a big game,” he responds. After 10 minutes of this, I decide to move on.

A little further down is defensive end Alex Brown, with a much smaller gaggle. One reporter asks, “As a kid, did you have Super Bowl dreams?” Brown replies, “Oh, yeah.” I move on again. Next stop: linebacker Brian Urlacher, who’s a popular draw. Finally, some questions about football. What’s the defensive strategy? “Our defense is pretty simple,” says Urlacher. “We just play hard and get 11 guys to the football.” Pressed harder, he insists that “we’ve got to play hard and get to the football,” and a little later on, adds that “we’ve got to read our keys and get to the football.” I begin to wonder what the point of this is.

Cornerback Charles Tillman seems to be wondering the same thing. One journalist asks if he’s enjoying himself. “I just get tired of the same questions over and over,” he responds. “It’s like if I were to ask you your name 700 times.” Another reporter asks what’s the weirdest question he’s gotten today? Tillman replies that some guy from a Mexican TV station with a handheld puppet asked if he could be the Bears’ new mascot.

I decide to go look for this guy. I find him back at Grossman’s podium. In his hand is a bear puppet, which periodically looks back toward a camera guy and speaks in Spanish. Puppetman is trying to get Grossman’s attention, but the quarterback is ignoring him. A reporter next to Puppetman suggests calling out, “Mr. Grossman.” Puppetman tries that, but Grossman doesn’t bite. So the Mexican crew moves off and finds Copeland Bryan, a defensive end. Bryan is much more amenable. “Do you think I could be the new mascot for the Chicago Bears?” asks Puppetman, sounding like a Mexican Muppet. Bryan smiles. “I don’t know,” he says. The Bears’ current mascot “might whip your butt. But there might be a future for you.” The puppet replies, "Ayayay!"

By now, the hourlong Bears availability is coming to a close. The players look antsy, and the journalists look bored—until everyone discovers Inés Sainz , a female reporter from TV Azteca in Mexico. She’s wearing a white lingerie top, skin-tight jeans and high heels with laces that snake up her calves Cleopatra-style. The reporters begin interviewing her. “I think the people are really nice here,” she tells one TV interviewer in a perky, squeaky voice. “I just go straight to them and make my interview.” A couple staffers from the Bears come by and ask if they can take a picture with her.

After a break, it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts. I listen to about 15 minutes worth of questions about Super Bowl dreams and decide to wander around. Before long, I find Sainz once again. Now she’s being interviewed by three guys with Sporting News Radio. They ask about her interview techniques. “You do your job very well,” says one of them. “Muy gracias, muy gracias,” says another, mangling what may be the only Spanish phrase he knows. Next, someone asks to take a picture of her with a pair of Colts players. The players lift her up on their shoulders, and she squeals with delight. “Thank you very much,” she says. “You are so strong!” As one reporter wanders by, he mutters to a colleague, “Crazy, she’s getting interviewed more than the players are.”