When Rich Eisen covered his first Super Bowl for the NFL Network 14 years ago, Media Day hadn’t yet become the spectacle that we all know and love (or hate) today. Back then, at Super Bowl XXXVIII, no one was asking Martellus Bennett what Tom Brady’s beard smells like. No one had a running gag of asking coaches and players if the Super Bowl is a “must-win game.” There were no men in superhero costumes, gorgeous women actively trying to distract players with painted-on denim, the lesser-known Manning brother wearing a goofy suit, or crudely-stitched hand puppets doing lousy Triumph impressions.
But as the Super Bowl continues to evolve, anyone with a pulse can show up to what is now Media Night, and try to catch players off-guard with hilarious, awkward, or even offensive questions. While some of the sports media’s old guard and curmudgeons might hate what the Super Bowl’s first night has become, Eisen loves the circus show and thinks it’s a great way for everyone to let loose, relax a little, and use football as an escape.
“Let’s be honest, we’re all competing for eyeballs and attention,” the host of The Rich Eisen Show on AT&T Audience Network told me as he prepared to head out for Media Night in Houston. “The NFL numbers, as we all know, this year took a hit due to — I believe and other people believe, because the numbers rebounded after – the political season took a bite out of the NFL, and sports in general. So, we’re creating a night where everybody can come in and talk about the sport, cast a spotlight on the sport, and cut through the static.”
The word that people love to associate with Media Night is circus. There are weirdos and comedians at every turn, be it PFT Commenter getting a laugh out of a Stoolie like Edelman, or a guy wearing a trash can with “LOSSWEILER” written on it. Kel Mitchell donned his Good Burger outfit to interview players, while Jimmy Kimmel’s Guillermo used a turkey leg as a microphone. Eisen doesn’t think the event needs to be toned down, because it’s good for business and the game. And even if it gets under a player’s skin, it’s still better than being asked the same boring questions over and over.