Belichick, Barrel Boy and The Beast: Theatre of the absurd at Super Bowl Media Day



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With days to go until Super Bowl XLIX the Seattle Seahawks met with throngs of media at the annual Media Day event in Phoenix. (Jan. 27)


With days to go until Super Bowl XLIX the New England Patriots avoided any questions regarding under-inflated footballs during the massive Media Day event in Phoenix. (Jan. 27)

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PHOENIX — Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch knew he had to talk. It didn't mean he had to say anything.

So, in essence, he didn't. And now, onto our regularly scheduled Super Bowl Media Day, where the players and coaches are window dressing, and it's really more about who's asking the questions.

There was Barrel Boy. A pair of buck-toothed sock puppets. A guy sporting a purple shirt, a bicycle helmet and seven Go Pro cameras, "so I can catch all the angles, precisely."

These characters are the sort that have helped turn an event that began as a convenient place to fill up the notebook in advance of the NFL title game into the full-fledged theatre of the absurd it has become.

On Tuesday, about 2,000 reporters — make that people with credentials — filed into the U.S. Airways Center, worked their way down the stairs past a marching band playing a version of Blondie's 1980 hit, "Call Me," and got down to business.

The New England Patriots filed in and the clock started ticking down from "60:00."

As the reporters, cameramen and Nickelodeon superhero Pick Boy elbowed for position, the questions began.

As expected, New England coach Bill Belichick wasn't forthcoming about much. But now, thanks to a question asked by a kid, we know his favorite stuffed animals are those cute little monkeys you put your fingers in to make them talk.

Those wishing to someday see Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's etchings were in luck. Sort of. A sketch artist got a credential and spent the morning penning out pictures of the Man himself: Life imitating art imitating Leroy Neiman.

Looking for a Joe Namath-like guarantee at Media Day? "The game will be on Sunday," promised Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Oh, there were moments of actual reporting going on — some even done by people other than ESPN's Chris Berman, NFL Network's Deion Sanders and the rest of the reporter-celebrity crowd that fields as many questions as they ask.

Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who had his last say on the deflated-footballs matter during a surprise showing at the New England news conference Monday, came out Tuesday and stood in a corner — not to talk about Deflategate, but, among other things, to talk about why he talked about Deflategate.

"The reason I did what I did yesterday was so that all of our fans and (me) and my family can enjoy this game," he said.

Belichick stood by his guns. He wasn't going to mention it anymore: "We're just focused on Seattle this week," he said.

Speaking of Seattle, about a half-hour before the Seahawks took to the floor at the jammed, claustrophobic arena that the NBA's Phoenix Suns call home, a crowd started gathering around Podium No. 6. Lynch's name was up there. Quite a surprise, considering he spent last year's Media Day in a corner, surrounded by teammates who wouldn't let any reporters near him.

An hour with "The Beast?" Seemed promising.

Then, he climbed the stairs, set his timer, said he was doing this so he wouldn't get fined and pronounced he would answer every question the same way until his time was up. That ended with about 57:30 remaining on the countdown clock, and it's not a sure thing he was right about the fine thing. The Pro Football Writers Association is talking to the league about what happened and Lynch has been told there's a potential he could, indeed, have to pay up for leaving early.

Once he left, his teammates fielded a number of questions about why Lynch doesn't like to talk, and why fans (read: media) seem so obsessed with hearing him talk.

"The way the NFL sells everything all the time, fans want to, like, be inside our minds," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "The fact they don't get to do it all the time with Marshawn, it just makes them mad."

OK, back to the important stuff:

The white, brimmed hat Bennett was wearing was made of horse tweed and cost $800, "for those of you who know about hats," he said.

Those who know about figure skating would've liked what they saw.

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir were there. One was decked out in black leather pants, black shoes with chunky heels, a bejeweled necklace and a Seinfeld-esque puffy shirt. Lipinski looked good, too.

They asked some questions. Answered more.

As Seattle's 60 minutes were wrapping up, a group of practice squad players were showing off their best dance moves for the camera — Jimmy Staten did the "Sprinkler" — while being surrounded by scantily clad ladies in cheerleading gear.

A few steps away, a man wearing clown's makeup and a rubber-ribbon wig was carrying a microphone and following a reporter with a low-cut neckline that highlighted her painted-on black-and-white dress.

In another corner, former Rams MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, now retired and with a TV gig, had a microphone in front of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

"This is football players interviewing football players," observed the legendary sports writer, Art Spander, now covering his 39th Super Bowl.

And reporters interviewing reporters.

No stone is left unturned at Media Day.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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