I attended my first Super Bowl in January, 1979 in Miami. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys, 35-31, in the old Orange Bowl, in what many remember as the “Jackie Smith” game.
What I remember is after 2½ years covering the NFL, I was at the Super Bowl as part of the media with my dad and there were no more than a few hundred credentialed media.
My dad was well – known in NFL circles and well – respected.
The highlight of the week for me was when he introduced me to George Halas, who was there to toss the coin that year. My dad, Halas and I spent about 15 minutes together in the media room. It was almost like I was somebody. I was 25 and couldn’t imagine there ever being a bigger moment in my career.
Two months later, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack at 53. Just as suddenly, ready or not – and I clearly wasn’t – I was the publisher and editor of Pro Football Weekly.
I’ve covered every Super Bowl since and it’s always been a big deal to me. Mostly because I think about my dad and the career he gave me, and how much I still miss him every day.
But of course it’s also because the Super Bowl’s become such an important part of our culture. Other than Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, what’s bigger?
The Super Bowl isn’t a day, it’s a week, and there’s a definite pattern and rhythm to it. 35 years later, the schedule is exactly the same as it was when I started.
The Super Bowl teams arrive Sunday or today, depending on their preference. The competing coaches and select players are brought to the media for quick interviews and initial impressions.
Tuesday is media day. The entire credentialed media is invited to the stadium where the game is to be played and given one hour with each team, all of the players decked out in their game jerseys.
The media visits with the first team and, after an hour, is escorted off the field to an area in the stadium where a big brunch buffet has been set up while the first team poses on the field for their team Super Bowl photo. They leave, the other club arrives and the whole scene is repeated.
Wednesday and Thursday are the same with the media bused to the two teams hotels, one after the other and given an hour to interview as many players as possible or desired.
After the Thursday session the players are kept away from the media until after the game Sunday night.
A number of other news conferences, (i.e. officials, host committee, halftime entertainment, etc.) take place Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, including the NFL Players Association meeting, which is always Thursday afternoon around 3:00 p.m. or 3:15 local time.
On Friday morning, just the two head coaches have news conferences, usually the first at 8 a.m., the second around 9:30.
Those sessions are annually prelude to the Commissioner’s “State of the League” news conference at 11:30 a.m., which runs for an hour.
On Saturday, the annual Hall of Fame selection process takes place and the last mass news conference of the week is late Saturday afternoon to announce the winners.
The NFLPA’s, Commissioner’s and Hall of Fame news conferences have all become important events in their own rights demanding significant attention.
Finally on Sunday, there is the game. Thankfully after the first 35 Super Bowls yielded just six games decided by one score, five of the past six have been in doubt until the last few minutes.
For most of the media, it’s an exhausting week spent hoping for a game worth talking about.
For me it’s an important anniversary and a week spent thinking how grateful I am for all the game has given me, and many of you.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears and pro football for HubArkush.com. Write to him at [email protected]