Forget the players and their teams, the biggest story to this point -- at least among the media -- is Jacksonville itself.
There's an awful lot of complaining going on about the lack of adequate hotel space, distance between venues and just a general feeling that this is not a suitable place to host a Super Bowl. There's validity to some of the gripes but I say it's a little early to be passing judgement. Mike Freeman of the Florida Times-Union even based his column on this issue, defending Jacksonville and wondering what the media really has to complain about. "Not since Cleveland in the '80s has a city gotten this kind of beat-down from the whiney media. Jeez people. Did someone steal your frequent flyer miles? You'll still get your free food, free graft, free golf, free transportation, free clothes, free everything. Just like every other Super Bowl you've covered," writes Freeman.
He's right. Let's at least wait until the paying customers weigh in (eg. the fans), and most of them don't arrive until Thursday or later. They're the real judge.
Today we all headed down to the NFL Media Center at the Prime Osborn III Convention Center. That's where the two head coaches and select players were holding court. Eagles went first followed by the Patriots at 3:30. Well, it was supposed to be 3:30 but practice ran a little long so Bill Belichick was about 15 minutes late for his slot. Maybe the team was busy installing a little something special for Freddie Mitchell. Man, did he pick the wrong time and way to try and grab some pub.
The Media Center was the usual assortment of sports radio stations from around the country. Super Bowl week is their opportunity to broadcast live from "Radio Row" and can provide good content because of the players and celebrities strolling by. Saw Hines Ward today. he seems to have recovered. At least he was smiling.
The big difference from what this Media Center offered from past years was the overwhelming presence of the NFL Network. This week is its time to shine. Every head coach press conference is covered live as well as many of the players' availability. Add in the daily show NFL Total Access, the Network's flagship program, and the only thing that separates you from everything that's happening in Jacksonville is your TV screen. My God, if you are an NFL fan and your cable system isn't offering the Network yet, get on the phone and yell. Do not let another Super Bowl go by without it.
Tomorrow is Media Day. Let's see if any organization does anything clever and original beyond the usual 9-year old asking questions for a kids' network or the wacky comedian blurting out off-the-wall questions for his cable-TV show.
One can only hope. And Jacksonville, keep your chin up. It will all be over soon.