Wednesday, Jan. 30
Early wake-up today and it was a little harder for some than others.
Last night was the PFW gang's first venture to Bourbon Street. Me, being the seasoned veteran I am, knew to limit my intake of Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's to one. Others weren't so fortunate.
A little background – Pat O'Brien's is a bar on Bourbon Street famous for one thing: the aforementioned Hurricane. This innocent tasting fruit concoction packs a punch to the tune of four shots of rum. Unwary drinkers are only too eager to order a second, only to wake up the next morning wondering, "What the hell happened?" If the question is "Where the hell am I," said person probably had three. If it's "Who are you?" well…
Getting back to how we made out, I had my obligatory Hurricane and then made my way back to the hotel. The rest of the crew stayed out. Stories of the night before started to trickle in around 7:45 this morning and the winner seems to have been Shane Donaldson who lucky for him, is covering the Rams and didn't have to be on hand at their hotel until 9:30. By the time he showed up for his stint on Patriots.com Radio at noon, he looked like Jerome Pathon after that hit Bryan Cox laid on him earlier this season. But I guess he'll live.
The Patriots press obligations began at 8:15. Instead of the Superdome, from now on all player and coach access is at the team hotel. A large ballroom is divided by pipe and drape. On one side is a podium and seats arranged theater style. On the other side are tables with a player or coach's name on each one. Bill Belichick and the quarterbacks use the podium. Everyone else is in the other room.
These sessions are mandatory and it's obvious who the players and coaches are who usually don't speak to the media. They bury their head in a newspaper and try to look busy but it doesn't work. Inevitably, someone will pull up and the torture – as they see it -- begins.
Instead of asking questions about football, the season and the Rams, I figured I'd focus on getting some players' thoughts on having to face the media. J.R. Redmond told me it's tough at times to bite his tongue but on the whole he doesn't mind the questions. The toughest thing, he said, is when a question takes you by surprise. On the whole he doesn't mind it too much.
Lonnie Paxton, on the other hand, loves every minute of it. "This is a dream come true," he said, "I wasn't even expecting to play college ball and now I'm in the Super Bowl. I'm willing to tell my story to anyone who will listen."
At the same time, Paxton does admit the process can be frustrating at times. "I just wish writers would sometimes listen to the other questions being asked. Sometimes you get the same question 20,000 times. Isn't that why they have transcripts?"
Paxton also wonders why the focus of questioning so often has to be on the negative (think he's the only pro athlete that feels that way?) and he doesn't worry about what others are saying or doing. "I can't hold anyone else's jock, just mine."
After today's media session was over, it was back to the office to check email, voice mails and anything else that needed attention. It's hard for me to explain how frenetic things are and to think they will get more so is amazing. Sponsors and more employees are arriving tomorrow and that means making sure rooms and ID cards are ready and that's just the tip of a very large iceberg. Every department in the Patriots organization – Marketing, Finance, IT, PR – is working their collective butts off. The phones never stop ringing with demands from people for every imaginable thing. Tickets, interviews, general info – "What is the birthday of the Patriots?" was a question asked today of one of the people answering the phone. Geesh.
At 1:30pm local time, the band U2 held a press conference at the Media Center. They will be performing at halftime of Sunday's game and it should be well worth watching. According to the producer, more lights and effects will be used for U2's 12-minute performance than in the past three Super Bowls combined.
Just before the band members took the stage, Jonathan Kraft met up with them backstage and gave them some Patriots shirts. U2 has performed at Foxboro Stadium before and Kraft is a huge fan. It's funny to see the owner of a National Football League franchise so excited about meeting a rock band but Jonathan loves his music.
The Edge and Bono were particularly funny during the press conference. The Edge started out by saying in the most serious voice he could muster, "We're not here to field questions about the quarterback controversy … it's a very sore subject with this band … we are here to bring peace … however, Drew Bledsoe does have a superior long pass…"
I'm guessing the consensus with U2 is that Bledsoe should play. I think they may have met him during one of their tours through Boston. It was all pretty lighthearted.
Bono said the best thing about being back in New Orleans is that "we are sold out this time." He also was asked if the band would be lip-synching to which he quipped, "I'll be singing live … it might be novel ... it could catch on with the kids." So many of these "live" performances during sporting events are dubbed but you know a band like U2 wouldn't have it. It was pretty cool seeing U2 in a setting like that although I'd rather hear them play music than talk. That will come Sunday.
As for the reason we're down here – the game – the hot topic continued to be who would start at quarterback for the Patriots. After practice today, Belichick was supposed to issue some sort of announcement. The consensus opinion among the media and anyone else paying attention, including our cab driver from the Media Center, is that Brady will start.
I kind of hope Belichick doesn't make an announcement – at least publicly. I like having the focus on the Patriots for once. It seems too often this team is ignored nationally. You gotta pay attention now, baby.
Tonight there is a media party at New Orleans Place next to the Superdome. If it's anything like the one in '97, it's worth going to. I'll let you know how that went and reaction to the QB announcement tomorrow