More than 7,000 fans paid good money to sit and watch reporters ask NFL players questions yesterday.
I don’t get it.
Oh, and I was one of them.
For the first time ever the NFL opened up media day to paying customers. Fans could pay tickets for $25 face to come sit in the lower level of Lucas Oil Stadium while reporters flocked around NFL players to ask them banal questions. Each ticket scored a swag bag for the fan, including an FM radio receiver that allowed them to hear an audio feed from any of six stations.
I landed a last minute invite from Matt Grecco of Stampede Blue, and to be honest his conversation was far more interesting than anything that took place on the field. The highlight of media day was clearly the performance of Tom Brady. Brady figured out about half-way through his interview that the fans could hear him, and began to pander to the crowd with multiple references to the Colts and Peyton Manning and Dwight Freeney. At some point a classic Patriots tri-corner hat was passed about, making Wes Welker even more unlikeable and less manly than he already was.
The event was so boring that many of the media members covering the players actually just milled about aimlessly. Still, the attendance and enthusiasm was a testament to the power of the NFL in Indianapolis. No other sporting event could generate nearly the turnout for a press conference featuring almost no frills or entertainment for two teams wholly unrelated to Indianapolis. The locals are supporting this Super Bowl in a massive way. Unless a team with a strong regional presence makes an appearance, I have to wonder if other cities will turn out to support media day in the same way. The crowd was filled with Colts fans wearing Indianapolis jerseys.
The attendance is remarkable because while visitors have marveled at the ease of access around downtown, the number of residents driving in from surrounding neighborhoods has made traffic and parking a bit of a headache, and painfully expensive. The only ones to care about that to this point have been the locals however, and you won’t find many complaints from Hoosiers who are happy to have their day in the sun.
There are scores of events to draw people in. Last night, Peter King of Sports Illustrated hosted a ‘Tweet Up’ at Scotty’s Brewhouse. The tent outside was packed with people who just wanted to talk football with King. Several media luminaries were present including NFLPA director of communications George Attalah, Will Carrol, Mike Tanier, Bill Barnwell, and Doug Farrar. King fielded lots of questions on the Colts, and gave some insight into Chuck Pagano. He said that the Ravens loved Pagano so much that John Harbaugh legitimately feared loosing him to the Eagles the year before and was content to lose his current defensive coordinator just for the chance to promote Pagano. He also said that the Steelers feel besieged by all the teams raiding their staff, and that contributed to Butler staying put in Pittsburgh as the team scrambled to compensate him appropriately.
There is no question that football is king in Indianapolis, and judging by the passion the fans have for making themselves uncomfortable just to listen to people talk about the game, it’s about a lot more than just the Super Bowl.