Recollections: Covering Super Bowl XXXI Part II
By Thom Gerretsen
Continued from previous week:
Later in the week, I met recently-enshrined Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer and some of his 1960s Packer teammates, who showed their support as Brett Favre and Reggie White headed a Green Bay team to bring home its first Lombardi Trophy since ’68. We were on Radio Row, where people from sports and entertainment discuss their careers and promote their products and charities as they move along rows of national and local radio and TV hosts broadcasting “Live from the Super Bowl.”
I also talked with such notables as Joe Namath, who kept a promise to win the AFC’s first Super Bowl in 1969 with the New York Jets.
On Saturday night, as the players had final strategy meetings, I had dinner at an upscale “Taste of the NFL” fundraiser to fight hunger – dabbling among local food specialties from all 32 NFL cities. Later that night, I could hardly move down a very packed Bourbon Street as I walked past what looked like a security entourage of Packer fans surrounding national reporter Jim Gray.
The Super Bowl has long started at 5:30 p.m., and players will sometimes complain about the wait as Super Sunday drags on. They’re not kidding! I joined fans outside the Fairmont Hotel to watch the Packers board team buses to the Superdome around 1 p.m. I then went to the stadium to get situated; and I couldn’t wait for the kickoff, either. I ran into Commissioner Tagliabue during my wait. He asked where I was from, and when I said Marshfield, he said he was really glad to see me there. He spoke of the NFL’s origins, and he mentioned cities such as Sheboygan and Racine. Tagliabue made it clear that he appreciated the league’s smaller-city heritage which Green Bay carries on.
With 3,000 media types there, my game seat was in a basement area where I could watch on TV and do interviews afterward. But at halftime, another reporter and I snuck into a corner ambulance entrance to the field where a guard let us watch the Blues Brothers’ show. We also stayed there for much of the second half.
You’re not supposed to cheer in the press box. But in our corner nook, my fellow reporter – a Patriots fan – cheered when Curtis Martin ran 18 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, putting the Pats just 6 points behind Green Bay. But on the ensuing kickoff, I jumped up-and-down with the Packer fans as Desmond Howard scored the game’s final TD on a 99-yard return. The media elected Howard as the game’s MVP. He remains the only special teams player to win the Super Bowl’s top individual honor.
Just before I left town on Monday, a New Orleans TV reporter saw me jamming my week’s load of laundry into my car trunk and interviewed me. I was in a crowd of Wisconsin traffic with heavy rain and strong winds almost all the way to St. Louis, where I stayed for the night and gave our stations one final report with fans complaining about the weather.
They didn’t seem to regret their plight, however.