Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 30, 2014

Super Bowl spectacle crosses into the absurd

Tom Lindley
CNHI News Service

— If ever there was a straight laced operation, it would be the National Football League. So how does one explain Media Day, the pre-Super Bowl event that is mostly a silly, goofy, absurd showcase to let the world’s press - and about anyone else with a recording device and some nerve - play the part of clown?

This year’s annual display of debauchery was hosted at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. , where  thousands of real and imagined media representatives swarmed the home ice of the New Jersey Devils. The ambition of almost every one was to maybe, just maybe, get within 25 feet of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning to shout a question his way.

Maybe it’s fitting that Manning makes tens of millions of dollars. Otherwise, what would justify his participation in something so insane?

Football fans might want to understand how Manning plans to attack the part of the field that Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman defends on Sunday. But one of the game’s all-time great passers instead was drilled with questions about hosting “Saturday Night Live.” (“This week? I probably won’t be there this week. I don’t think so.”) Or who were his favorite Real Housewives – the ones in Orange County or New Jersey? (“I have not had a chance to see either show.”)

I guess, if you’re a 37-year-old quarterback who’s been blindsided more times than you can remember, only to quickly bounce up and run another play, why react angrily to a foolish, attention-seeking inquiry?

The scene that surrounded Manning and others players preparing for Super Bowl XLVIII was something out of Theater of the Absurd. There was a man dressed as Mozart (or could it have been Thomas Jefferson?), a guy doing his best Waldo, a lost soul impersonating a leprechaun and Nickelodeon’s Pick Boy.

If Manning wasn’t attracting the most attention, it was cornerback Richard Sherman back in the spotlight, though in somewhat less dramatic fashion than his performance after the Seahawks’ victory against San Francisco in the NFC championship.

Sherman was asked about less-than-saintly ways of professional athletes and their trips to after-hours establishments.

Question:  “As far as money is concerned, all of you football guys have gone into the strip clubs and are raining (money) down on the strippers. I think that is a bad example for our young ladies. How can we stop that?”

Answer:  “Well, I’ve never gone into a strip club and thrown money, so I couldn’t tell you. I guess trying to understand that there are other avenues, there are other ways you can make money, that women can do anything they want in this world.”

The crazy thing about Media Day is that it’s an accepted way of conducting business. Why anyone would pay a journalist -- real or otherwise -- to attend such an event is pure craziness. It's even harder to comprehend why 7,000 fans paid $28.50 to sit in the bleachers high above the rink to watch these shenanigans.

The NFL passes Media Day off as time to enjoy a carefree moment before the annual showdown that offers fame and fortune to the winner and frustration and hard feelings to the loser.

Maybe it’s that strange concoction of athleticism and absurdity that somehow works in making the Super Bowl the most hyped event in sports. Look at it this way: It's an event during which more than 1.2 billion chicken wings will be consumed - and nearly 50 million cases of beer - by fans watching the game.

That aside, it’s more than a little puzzling that someone in a strange costume would ask a behemoth of a man if he thinks a leprechaun would make a good pet.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

- See more at: http://www.cnhinews.com/cnhins_sports/x714769278/Dating-scene-with-colleges-recruits-can-have-harsh-results#sthash.B1Gcxzgg.dpuf

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.