R.J. Rothchild stood in a concourse at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and tried not to look disappointed. After all, he could have been sitting in the nearby machine shop where he normally works. But for $25, he expected more. In fact, for $25, he expected something.
Perhaps rashly he had bought one of the 5,000 tickets the NFL sold to its Media Day on Tuesday and with that purchase he figured he was getting a piece of a show. At least the show he always saw on television -- the one with the reporter in a wedding dress or the character in a superhero costume. He thought he was getting Tom Brady up close or maybe a chance to shake Tom Coughlin's hand.
Then he arrived at the stadium to discover the horrible truth. He had simply thrown down good money to watch from afar as reporters interviewed football players. And that wasn't very interesting at all.
"When you watch Media Day on TV, you see all the goobers and the freaks," he says. "And I didn't really see any goobers and freaks out there."
He shakes his head.
He wanted to see celebrities. He wanted to touch fame. He wanted to feel like paparazzi or at least gape in awe at a barrage of flashbulbs flickering behind Chad Ochocinco's head. Looking into the sea of reporters mixing with players on the New England Patriots he was sure he saw Carmen Electra and, well, that was something.
But was that really her? Didn't matter; in a moment the woman was gone, disappearing into the waves of cameras and notepads.
"I didn't even get to see the guy from Howard Stern who interviews all the players," Rothchild says. "I didn't see the guy from Letterman either."
The wheels of commerce never stop spinning in the NFL. And the league that will soon see television revenues climb over $2 billion a year always finds ways to reach into fans' wallets. Somehow in the same year it put its players in a 4½ month headlock and threatened the start of the season, the league decided it would sell tickets to the most tedious of all media scrums -- never actually informing the people who bought the tickets that the Media Day spectacle they see on their televisions every year is actually a sliver of a much drier, duller event that would never translate to the stands.
When Tom Schaffner of Indianapolis asked his wife to buy him Media Day tickets as a present, he thought he was getting some kind of access to the madness. In his mind, he saw himself standing on the field right beside the players. He thought he might get a player’s autograph or maybe even get to ask a question.
Maybe he missed NFL Network host Rich Eisen signing footballs from fans who actually tossed them to him from the stands.
"Uhhhhh, I'm a little let down," Schaffner says.
It didn't help that the NFL, apparently not realizing that Media Day is probably not best watched sober, didn't open the beer stands. Instead, those who dropped their $25 or paid even more for scalped tickets stared clear-eyed as the stadium scoreboard showed snippets of a few of the larger press conferences going on below. And when that got old, they trudged back into the concourse where -- Good News! -- the doors to the Indianapolis Colts team store were open and bargains were everywhere. Just look at this Super Bowl jacket selling for $115, or the $90 golf shirt, or the $49 souvenir football. A store employee shouted about a discount, but even that didn't seem like much.
Back outside, the scoreboard changed: Tom Brady to Bill Belichick to Eli Manning to Ahmad Bradshaw. Images flew by. All of it a blur. All of it, well, dull.
But not all was lost. It turns out, for $25, everyone also got their very own NFL Media Day bag with strings to pull over their backs. Inside was a small radio that slips into the ear, on which they could listen to the snippets of interviews shown on the scoreboard. Not to mention a tube of lip balm with a Colts logo on the front and an NFL sticker book.
All but a handful of the stickers sold separately.
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