“Radio Row” plays a big part of the hype and promotion in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the National Football League’s annual championship game.
For Super Bowl 50, Radio Row is set up in the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, host city for Sunday’s game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
Thanks to the NFL, in recent years fans have been allowed to witness the action on Radio Row in person, and it's become a huge attraction.
It’s a place where sports talk radio stations from around the country set up remote operations and broadcast live as many hours as they wish. They have a chance to interview current and former players who drop by, as well as celebrities and stars associated — or not associated — with the big game.
The stations each have their own small areas on the convention floor, usually with a table and chairs, their station logos and their equipment. Low partitions and security personnel keep the fans at a safe distance, but close enough so they can listen in, and — if they want — solicit autographs from the players and celebrities.
Fans need tickets to gain admission, but they are free on a first-come-first-served basis at the NFL souvenir shop.
WATCH: Fans speak out at Super Bowl 50
Up close and personal
Denver fan Andrew Trujillo told VOA it was worth the wait.
“You don’t get to see this very often, so I thought this was great, just to see the personalities do their thing and see behind the scenes of work of how to prep and how to break down and everything,” he said. “Just given the access to see also the athletes, as well, up close and personal, more than you would see at a game and stuff, so I think that’s awesome.”
It’s not just local radio and TV stations and media from the cities whose teams will be playing in Super Bowl 50. Sports reporters, producers and their technical staffs come from all over the United States to set up remote broadcasting for the week.
Kyle Englehart, executive producer at Extra 1360 Fox Sports Radio in San Diego, said it’s important for his station to have a presence on Radio Row.
“It’s not only an image thing, but you want to be here for the guests, for the access to the players you get, not to mention it’s just pretty darn cool,” he said. “It’s something we look forward to every year. It’s a good benefit to the listeners. They get to hear a lot of guests you normally don’t hear, a lot of big-profile people that normally wouldn’t be on, and we try and provide that to the listeners.”
Former stars big draw
Former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, now 72, drew some of the biggest crowds with his appearance on Radio Row. Known as “Broadway Joe," he led the New York Jets to the championship in Super Bowl III in 1969, after brashly guaranteeing his team would beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.
Another former star player making the rounds is Bob Golic, an NFL defensive lineman for three different teams from 1979 to 1992.
“It’s fun for us older guys to sit back at the table and look at the younger players and say, ‘Compared to us, they’re nothing,’ he told VOA. “So, you know, it’s a fun time all around. Plus you get all the fans out here. I mean, it’s just wild to see how crazy this can get.”
Golic said interviewers haven't shied away from asking him about the dangers of brain injuries because of the years of hard hits many players endure while competing in the NFL.
“Yeah, we talk about the concussion stuff all the time. Then we totally forget, though, what we were talking about, and we go drink,” he joked.
It’s all about the media and fans having a good time before the big game — Super Bowl 50 — that kicks off on Sunday.