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Thursday, February 3, 2011
Silliness is good


It's Super Bowl time, and I'm convinced there is one item of the NFL's unmatched hype extravaganza that the powerbrokers of the beautiful game should adopt for their championship occasions: media day.

While soccer has real world champions, the planet's most popular sport and magic sponges, it has no Super Bowl media day equivalent.

I was in Dallas for a few days this week, taping "Inside the NFL," and went along to Tuesday's Super Bowl XLV circus. Regardless of unexpected ice storms, bone-chilling wind and being so unprepared to battle such elements that all my Boy Scouts badges have been revoked, media day warmed my spirits.

The reason is simple: Silliness is good.

Where else would NFL fourth-estate doyens rub shoulders with the likes of 11-year-old Dallas Morning News Kid Reporter Jordan Sternblitz (it said Kid Reporter on the business card he gave me), Ross the Intern from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and Pick Boy -- a perky fellow in a super hero, super-tight-fitting spandex outfit with cape and black mask a la Robin of Dynamic Duo fame.

It's a media morning like no other, combining the dizzying spin of Will Ferrell at full salchow in "Blades of Glory," the anarchic genius of the late, great Spike Milligan, and the hollowness of an empty coconut shell. In other words, it's one of life's guilty pleasures.

I confess that I enjoyed it immensely. In a week in which record-breaking transfer fees sparked uproar in England and the dark lockout cloud loomed ominously over the NFL's biggest day, it's not a bad thing once in a while to be reminded that be it men in shorts or men in helmets, they are still just playing a game. In its own unique way, media day celebrates that notion.

Like the Super Bowl, the World Cup final and the Champions League final are serious business. But presenting all the players to all the media in one setting on the verge of the game would allow FIFA and UEFA to demonstrate, as the NFL does, in two one-hour sessions the transcendent pop-culture power of their sport. And provide some unusual insight into the players themselves.

While a sizeable contingent was grilling Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy at his allotted podium, a few feet away, TV Azteca's Lia Ferre was using a multicolored balero (the cup-and-ball child's toy) to test the hand-eye coordination of an assortment of Packers players. They gamely played along for the cameras, but the competitive instincts of linebacker Diyral Briggs soon came to the fore when he couldn't perform the deceptively simple-looking task. He was well into "Tin Cup" territory when I finally moved on.

Later, as someone wearing a blond Clay Matthews wig and leopard skin-tight pants and sporting a grand, eye-catching mustache walked by, I approached Steelers defensive back Anthony Madison.

"What's the dumbest question you've been asked today?" I probed.

"How badly do you want to win," came the instant reply.

All you Steelers fans out there, rest assured that Mr. Madison wants to win Sunday. It was at least three minutes before I could interrupt his discourse on wanting to win so I could ask him what his favorite flavor of tea was. After graciously chuckling, he said: "plain old Lipton's."

I have no idea what tea Dirk Kuyt favors or how dexterous Iker Casillas is with a balero or even how badly they wanted to win the World Cup last summer, but maybe I'll get the chance, along with "Access Hollywood," to find out one day. Until then, I can take comfort from knowing the favorite Black Eyed Peas song of Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby. In case you were wondering, it's "My Humps."