Having a media credential for a Super Bowl provides a unique perspective on the spectacle. What you see on television is only part of the story. Our goal at ThePostGame is to take the privilege of insider access to enlighten the average fan to what it is like behind the scenes. Because we are fans first, we constantly ask ourselves, "What is it really like to be in the locker room after the big game?"
We just witnessed a Super Bowl for the ages. Here are a few observations.
1) Russell Wilson, in his lowest moment, exuded class beyond any measure.
Most reporters immediately go to the winner's locker room. To me, the most compelling emotion and stories are with those defeated in the moments immediately after the game. The Seahawks locker room was like a morgue, as you might imagine. Players were just sitting at their lockers, still in uniform, looking down at their feet. The only noise you could hear was the sound of tape being methodically ripped off.
Halfway down the row of lockers on the left side sat Russell Wilson, just minutes after his game-changing interception. A few teammates went over to Wilson to give him a "bro hug" to try to console their teammate. A Seahawks official was sitting next to him talking in his ear, but Russell kept looking around aimlessly, as if searching for answers. He saw a reporter shooting some video of him from across the room, and politely asked if he would respect his privacy and not shoot. He seemed more pensive than pained. More determined than depressed. He covered up his heartbreak with class, consideration, composure. And then he stood up to make the long walk to the press area, located some 100 yards away through the bowels of University of Phoenix Stadium.
Most of the greats have made this very same trek. There may be no lonelier walk in sports.
2) The Patriots locker room celebration felt more like relief than elation.
In every Super Bowl-winning team's locker room that I have been in, the elation is unrestrained. Remember, most of these players are kids, and this represents the fulfillment of their lifelong dream. Youthful exuberance explodes as the enormity of their team achievement is realized. The Patriots postgame locker room was surprisingly muted. Many of the lesser-known players wanted their picture taken with Robert Kraft as he held the Lombardi Trophy. There were some hugs and smiles as players checked their cell phones.
But outside of Rob Gronkowski, who is a walking party bus of a guy, I was struck by the stoic, business-like nature of the players. For everyone aside from Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, this is their first Super Bowl championship. In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised ... the Patriot Way never takes an evening off.
3) The Super Bowl Halftime Show is a feat of efficiency and coordination.
Whoever had the brilliant idea to convert halftime of the Super Bowl from studio analysis to national rock concert is a genius. There are many Americans who watch the game solely for the halftime performances. And it’s the only time you’ll see sportswriters get up to go to the bathroom during the game so that they are back in their seats before the halftime show begins. What you don't see on TV is just how many people it takes to construct and break down these massive, football field-length sets, and how quickly they do it.
This year I shot time-lapse videos to show fans how the magic happens before NBC cued Katy Perry (presented at 8x actual speed).
4) These are the best and worst types of games for the sportswriters.
Fans at home love the drama of a back-and-forth game that remains undecided until the final play. And while it gives journalists a lot of great stories to mine (who made the play call, what did the cornerback read on the play, how about the miracle catches that will be but a footnote in this game because of the outcome, etc…), it also forces them to write multiple stories for each possible outcome. Dan Wetzel, the best sportswriter on the Internet, shares his thoughts from the Patriots locker room.
5) The Tom Brady Experience.
Tom Brady is the most well-known player in the NFL, not just in the United States, but around the world. A lot of that has not only to do with his epic achievements, but his fairy-tale lifestyle off the field. Being married to the most famous supermodel in the world certainly helps the cause.
So after a 10-year championship drought, what does the MVP do? On TV we see the staged press conference and his responses to the oft-repeated "How does this moment feel?" or "What were you thinking during that play?" questions. He's surrounded by his PR staff and not interested in taking questions from the pool of reporters in the locker room.
After a quick shower, Brady makes his long, triumphant walk to the team bus. ThePostGame has the only video of this victory march. I bet the feeling was much different the last time he exited these same corridors in 2008. And we can compare/contrast with the video we shot of Brady going to face the media after the shocking 2012 loss to the Giants.
6) Radio Row is a treasure trove of stories.
When fans think of Super Bowl week, they are bombarded with video from Media Day on Tuesday, as well as the game itself. But during the week, hundreds of athletes walk the floor of the Media Center known as Radio Row. It is here that the many of the most famous players, current and former, and lesser-known players, make themselves available. Since they aren’t playing in the big game, and their season is over, they are less guarded about what they say. You get to know these athletes on a deeper level. And you get to see personalities shine that you never fully appreciated. It’s my favorite time of the week, by far.
Here are some of the interviews we did with the likes of Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Jeremy Maclin, Tim Brown, Brandon Marshall, Deion Branch, Benjamin Watson, Greg Jennings, Kelvin Beachum, superagent Tom Condon and the creative director of Nike Football.
Super Bowl 49 is a reminder of why the NFL has become America’s Pastime. While there were many key plays throughout the game that ultimately could have decided the outcome, it is amazing how significant that final interception from the 1-yard line will be to certain legacies. You may not agree with him, but my friend put a lot of this in perspective in his text message to me Sunday night:
Tom Brady went from being a total goat in this game with a fairly questionable resume in other big playoff games to the greatest quarterback of all time with no counterargument…all while sitting on the bench. That’s how significant that unacceptably bad play call was.
And that is why we love the NFL.
I cannot wait for Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, where ThePostGame will once again bring you, the fan, an insider’s perspective on the biggest game in sports. In the interim, please subscribe to our newsletter and Like us on Facebook to get the most interesting stories in sports.