FOX Sports Insider
The most unpredictable night of the NFL season is upon us.
No, we’re not talking about the Super Bowl itself, but the accompanying opening night; the event formerly known as Media Day, then Media Night, and is still possibly the most fun the football world can have without, you know, football.
This is the first in three years, at least in its usual form, after back-to-back virtual opening nights due to COVID-19, which took much of the circus atmosphere out of the event.
The Footprint Center, home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, is where this year’s performance will take place, and for one night only, pretty much any kind of silliness is encouraged. This year will be my ninth, and there have been some memorable moments.
It’s not as crazy as it used to be, and there are fewer marriage proposals and outrageous pranks these days, but it’s still a show within a show, and make of that what you will.
On opening night, as in life, once you’ve seen certain things, you can’t unsee them. Watching comedian John Oliver show the pages of an erotic magazine to various actors many years ago, and ask them for their expert, er, analysis, will have to be forgotten.
There is something for everyone. There are journalists, of course, but also comedians and influencers and celebrities and reality stars — and lots and lots and lots of gamers; each of the two teams.
Some, because they are famous, are installed on high podiums and surrounded by question marks. Most, because they are much less well known, move around, usually willing to talk to anyone who passes by.
It was once a deeply serious affair, attended mostly by beat writers and football correspondents trying to stock their notebooks with enough solid content to last through the build-up to the big game.
There’s still a lot of that, and for the most part, the questions being asked of people like Andy Reid, Nick Sirianni, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will have some football merit. Unless Reid dons a big red Hawaiian shirt again, in which case he might get some inquiries about his dress style.
For less prominent players, it’s a chance to see some of the spotlight, and it’s those who are rarely on the receiving end of a microphone or TV camera who often use the exposure to do or say something something that tilts. closer to extravagance.
But it can be a minefield. A decade ago, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver was reprimanded after making a series of homophobic comments, following a provocative line of questioning from Howard Stern’s former shock-game partner Artie Lange.
Since then, players on both teams have been given timely notices prior to the event. Have fun, of course, but don’t do anything that creates the wrong kind of headlines and overshadows game preparation.
Sometimes guys want to say nothing by saying a lot. Bill Belichick routinely made an art form of answering questions in the longest and most boring way possible, to chew up time and pass the time without having to answer anything he didn’t want to.
Sometimes guys mean a lot without saying anything at all. Marshawn Lynch guaranteed it would be the story with repeated (not) “I’m here so I don’t get mobbed” answers eight years ago, but he made an exception for USA TODAY reporter Josh Peter, who had an ace. in the hole delivering lemon pie handmade by Lynch’s grandfather.
Tom Brady played in enough Super Bowls to run the gamut of experience. In 2008, Mexican TV host Inés Gómez Mont infamously proposed to her at media night, dubbed the “Real Miss Brady” and was last heard accusing her of embezzling 146 million dollars from the Mexican government.
Sometimes Brady’s experience was profound; choked up in 2017 when a 7-year-old reporter asked him who his hero was. The answer: his father.
That same year, a Bleacher Report writer became the most photographed man of the night by donning an eerily realistic Brady mask, which ensured he’d be bombarded with selfie requests for a solid hour.
Other infamous highlights include when Rob Gronkowski was asked to read from the pages of a steamy romance novel, when FS1’s Shannon Sharpe and Super Bowl rival Ray Buchanan engaged in trash talk and , perhaps, the moment it all changed: MTV VJ “Downtown” Julie Brown flirted with players and did it for Inside Edition in 1991.
Who knows what we’ll see this time? The weirdest night of the football year is entertainment, sure, but it’s also a bit of a hoax.
Because it serves as a kickoff to Super Bowl week and a reminder that, after all, it’s still just a game.
First of all, for the rest of the week and until the big game itself, he corrects us with the alternative truth: that it’s actually much more than that.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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