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January 31, 2012

Football Fans Grab Chance to Get Closer to Super Bowl Players

by Parke Brewer

This is Super Bowl week in the United States - the lead-up to the nation's biggest sports event.  Devoted fans of American football are gathering in Indianapolis, Indiana ahead of this year's championship game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.  But tickets to the Super Bowl are expensive - and hard to get.

Some fans, however, are more than happy to pay money for a behind-the-scenes look at how journalists and players interact.

Tickets for this Sunday’s Super Bowl sold out long ago - at $800 to $1,200 each.  The few tickets on resale markets are going for as much as $16,000.

But this year, for $25, 5,000 fans got a chance to get closer to their football favorites, at this week's Super Bowl Media Day. While about 2,000 journalists interviewed the players, the fans could listen in on special radios to hear exactly what the players were saying down on the field.

New England Patriots supporter Dean Tambling says that made the experience special.

“It was good to hear a full interview, and not just, you know, the sound bites that you get on TV and radio,” Tambling said.

This is the first time the National Football League has allowed fans into the Media Day event.  New York Giants fan Kevin Stumpf was among them.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I thought it was kind of nice for the NFL to open it up for fans.  I think we all thought when we first heard about it we’d be down on the field,” Stumpf said.

Instead, they sat in the stands, watching the action on the field as journalists jockeyed to talk to players and coaches.  

One Spanish language television crew played loud music for some impromptu salsa dancing to attract players for interviews.

A reporter plucked unsuspecting New York Giant Jim Cordle away from his interview with VOA for a quick dance.

“That was maybe the most awkward moment of my life. See what I mean, this is your world experience right here,” Cordle said.

New England Patriots fan Paul Tetuan said getting a close-up view of the media action was a treat.

“You can’t get right up on top of the players, and I understand that.  But sitting where we were, that was great.  I mean you could sit there, you could move around and get in front of the different players.  They let you bring your camera in to take pictures and so forth.  So I mean it was great; great experience; good idea finally - let the fans participate in this,” Tetuan said.

Tetuan’s wife, Cindy, says the $25 ticket was an affordable way to experience the Super Bowl atmosphere.

“When we first heard about it and thought, 'Well, let’s check it out and see what it is'.  I would have paid $100 for this, just to be able to see our players, yeah, pretty cool,” she said.

Even the players liked having their supporters close by.

“I’m glad the fans are here.  I feel they are a huge part of the Super Bowl.  I mean the fans - outside the players - the fans are what makes the Super Bowl,” said New England defenseman Markell Carter.

Thousands of fans are flocking to Indianapolis this week as the excitement builds up to the game.  Those who do not have Super Bowl tickets can instead take advantage of a host of activities - concerts, charity events and the like.  

Each year, fans make the NFL championship game the most widely watched television program in the United States.