Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Jan 2013

Andy Benoit's Super Bowl Diary, Day Four

As usual, the buzz around the Super Bowl escalated drastically on Thursday. Seemingly the entire NFL stopped by the media center at some point. The NFL Fan Experience recently opened up, which means the streets near the convention center are flooded with families in Saints jerseys. On every block there are at least three police officers. Barricades separate the sidewalks and streets, which hopefully has a lot of unseen safety benefits that offset the enormous inconveniences it’s causing.

This afternoon, the Beyonce press conference happened. Unlike the perfectly prompt players and coaches press conferences, this one started some 20 minutes late. (That made it fashionable.) It was full of entertainment reporters. At pressers, the entertainment reporters come across as absolute clowns when compared to sportswriters. A typical question from them is preceded by at least two or three sentences of self-important fawning. (Hi Beyonce, Joe So-and-so from Whatever Network. In my opinion, you’re as hot as any star in music right now. You look beautiful, you sing amazingly, how happy are you to be singing the Siuper Bowl halftime show?)

As Geoff Mosher from CSN tweeted afterwards, "Hierarchy of "journalists at SB: 1. Sports writers; 2. Clowns; 3. Hot Latin chicks; 4. Artie Lange; 5. Entertainment reporters." Perfect.

Beyonce was pretty cool. She opened the press conference with a live, definitely-not-prerecorded, rendition of the National Anthem.

The people-watching is generally the best part of Super Bowl week. Last night, Tanier and I sat in the Hilton Bar and had a discussion that I’d like FO readers to join in on: which three people in the NFL would draw the biggest crowd if they walked into one of these hotel lobbies or into the media center? Before you answer, understand that the biggest draws are not simply the most famous players. For example, Jerry Rice was sitting in the lobby yesterday when I had lunch, and during that half hour not one person approached him. Mike Ditka, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to walk five feet without being asked to shake hands or sign something.

Certainly legendary players draw a bigger crowd than role players or semi-stars. (Marcellus Wiley was in the lobby last night and was only approached by one poor schmuck who asked him what it feels like to get hit by someone as big as him.) But so many of the legends lose their mystique by being on TV each week or by appearing in so many television ads. Rice, in a lot of ways, is "just a guy" around these parts. So is Emmitt Smith (his bumpy ESPN tenure hurt his image big time). Ditka is on TV a bunch but, for whatever reason, people flock to him. People also flock to some of the media guys. (Chris Berman, mainly.)

So who in football would be the biggest show stoppers when entering a room? It’d be someone who is legendary, but somewhat reclusive. The guys Tanier and I came up with are Lawrence Taylor, Joe Namath, and Jim Brown. Maybe Bill Parcells; when he’s not coaching, he’s nowhere to be found at the Senior Bowl, Combine, Super Bowl, and so on. Brett Favre might be in that category because he’s been in Mississippi this past year. Maybe Tim Tebow? He’s obviously on TV a lot, but at Super Bowl 46 in Indy, he was the only athlete who had a security detail with him at radio row. That’s a mark of major fame; the other celebs who had security detail last year were Adam Sandler, Jenny McCarthy, Madonna, and Jamie Foxx. So far today, only Tracy Morgan has had a security detail –- and it was a small one.

Tanier suggested maybe Joe Montana. However, he’s such a dull personality that it’s hard to fathom an over-the-top reaction for him. Two years ago at the Super Bowl in Dallas, he went through radio row and hardly anyone even noticed.

It takes a certain type of fame to really turn heads in an environment like this. If you have any suggestions for which living pro football stars might do it, please share.

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 31 Jan 2013

23 comments, Last at 02 Feb 2013, 7:20pm by Jerry


by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 7:10pm

I think Roger Goodell would draw a crowd. Well, perhaps more of an 'angry mob' once you take the pitchforks and burning torches into account.

by Dean :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 10:54am

Thing is, I doubt he's any less popular than any other commissioner. Given the venom hockey fans have for Gary Bettman, I bet he'd poll even lower. When I was in college, David Stern came to our school and spoke. He got booed.

But at the end of the day, the fans opinions of the commissioner - regardless of which one - simply don't matter, and nor should they.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 11:30am

I think the difference is that whereas Goodell is simply evil, Bettman is perceived as requiring a nurse to wipe the applesauce from his chin. He may in fact be too stupid to breathe on his own.

by Dean :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:04pm

Except that the idea that Goodell is “pure evil” is just completely and utterly stupid. It’s childish, really. Goodell is an authority figure and that puts a target on his chest. I’m reminded of how all the students hated the assistant principal in junior high because he would suspend students who chose to skip class and smoke over on the bridge next door to school property. Somehow, in some bizarre way, the vice principal was the bad guy for this? In hindsight, those rules were hardly draconian, but he made an easy target for nÏeve, immature kids desperate to rebel against anything they could find.
That’s REALLY what’s going on here.
If the players had any brains, they’d be rebelling against their own leadership who are more interested in protecting the jackasses, criminals, and steroid junkies than they are actually providing safe working conditions for the rank and file members.
If you want another analogy (and I’m sure you don’t), it’s sort of like how Rage Against the Machine got tons of mileage hating capitalism. Nice and easy, very convenient, very marketable, but let’s not pretend it’s edgy.

As for Bettman, while I do think he’s doing a terrible job, I do think the NHL is worse for his stewardship, and it’s debatable whether he’s even a hockey fan, I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a stupid. That’s just more of the same knee-jerk idiocy described above.

by VVD (not verified) :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 1:14pm

Wow - well said +1

by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 2:20pm

He's not even an authority, when you get right down to it. I suspect even an Assistant Principal has more protection from being summariy dismissed from his job than Roger Goodell, who is never more than 1/4 plus 1 vote away from being unemployed. The guy is just a highly visible hired hand. Showering him with contempt is like getting really angry at the guy who manages a 7-11, because the Big Gulp cups are smaller than you would like.

For all the chatter about Goodell (is there any invective more boring that the "GOD-dell" moniker?) being drunk on authority and harming teams arbitrarily, I'd be shocked if there was more than one owner who would not vote to retain him this afternoon, and I'm not even sure about the one. Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones, in terms of the long view of running their business, are likely about as upset that they had their cap number reduced for a year or two, as I would be if my kid's school told me that I couldn't spend $500 to send him to a field trip to Washington D.C. this summer, but they would him send on the trip next summer without charging me.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:06pm

I understand the emptional tendency to hold a guy like Goodell in contempt, but on a rational level it always puzzles me that people are so offended that a guy, who gets paid 10 million a year, to serve the interests of 30-odd billionaires who comprise the NFL owners, behaves in a way that, well, serves the interests of 30-odd billinaires who comprise the NFL owners.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 4:19pm

People who do jobs like that get given descriptions like "Quisling."

by Bnonymous (not verified) :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 5:27pm

only by fools

by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 5:33pm

quisling: a traitor, especially somebody who collaborates with an occupying force.

I'm sorry, but to whom (if we are to strip the word of it's specific meaning to some degree) has Roger Goodell pledged professional allegiance to, other than the people who pay him? If engaging in that legal behavior, which your employer has instructed you to engage in, makes you a "quisling", then nearly everybody on the planet (since it is the very rare person who has never once had an employer) has been a "quisling" at some time.

by Jerry :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 7:05pm

"People are so offended" because commissioners going back to Kenesaw Mountain Landis have been presented as stewards of the game, not frontmen for ownership (even though the latter is true). People like to believe the commissioners are acting in the best interests of the game, rather than the best interests of their employers.

One of the interesting things that's happened recently is that we've seen both Goodell and Bettman represent ownership in CBA negotiations, rather than the hired guns who used to be brought in and called Head of the Management Council or whatever. It's a bit of transparency.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 10:21pm

People get presented with Santa Claus from the time they can speak, yet they reliably see through the ruse by the time they are 8. It is astounding to me that grown adults can know that party A is getting paid a lot of money by party B to do a job, and the grown adults don't firmly grasp that A is going to serve B's interests. I mean, that's about as transparent as it gets.

by Jerry :: Sat, 02/02/2013 - 7:20pm

There isn't any publicity effort to sell Santa to adults. Of course, those adults are needed to make retailers' Decembers. There are any number of issues where the truth gets obfuscated. One that we can mention within FO's rules is stadium funding, where proponents will go on at some length about benefits to the local economy, despite all the research that shows the opposite.

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 8:00pm

Terrell Owens? Seems as if he can't go out in public without making some noise.

by Dean :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 9:44am

Namath was the first one to come to my mind as well. What you're looking for is CHARISMA.

Having met Chris Berman in passing a couple times over the years, he most definitely has that same charisma.

If William Perry did something noteworthy while he was there, he'd cause a sensation. He doesn't have the same level of fame, but he's one of the most charasmatic players of the last 40 years. Among coaches, Buddy Ryan falls in the same domain. If his health were better and if he had something to promote, he could also easily become almost as big a sensation as the game itself.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 10:13am


by Insancipitory :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 1:27pm

I gotta go with Madden too, it has to be someone distinctive, significant (famous and/or accomplished), and approachable.

by Tepid Coffee (not verified) :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 11:03am

His star power is probably diminished after this awful year, but I would still expect Rex Ryan to draw a significant crowd.

by Travis :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:18pm

So who in football would be the biggest show stoppers when entering a room? It’d be someone who is legendary, but somewhat reclusive.

O.J. Simpson? Bo Jackson? Manti Te'o?

by Dean :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:25pm

Good call on Bo Jackson!

by jimbohead :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 1:26pm

Doesn't Ditka's experience indicate that there's a local phenomenon going on here? In that vein, I'd suggest Archie Manning or Ricky Williams. If this superbowl were in SF, you better believe that Jerry Rice would be constantly mobbed.

by mm (old) (not verified) :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 9:11pm

yep...Ditka was a failure as a Saints coach, but people like his personality.

Rickey Jackson would get more attention than his old NFC West rival Jerry Rice.

by Troy (not verified) :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 9:07pm

You want a crowd, you gotta go recognizable:
1. Peyton Manning - dude has been in entirely too many commercials and he's too distinctive-looking to stroll through a space unnoticed.
2. Deion Sanders - I can't imagine Deion entering a room and him not making sure that everyone knows that Deion is in the room.
3. John Madden - no brainer. 9 out of every 10 males below the age of 40 grew up hearing this guy yell "BOOM," at them from their TV's. He's universally respected, and I can't think of a football personality that would offer a better photo op.

If you want to sub Tom Brady for Manning, I won't argue.