Once you got past the naked guy wearing nothing but a barrel and cowboy hat and the dudes — yes, more than one — wearing superhero outfits complete with fake muscles and masks, the NFL’s iconic, clichéd, wonderful, terrible, overstated, overhyped, underperforming Super Bowl Media Day actually got interesting Tuesday.
This one lacked the pretty girl in a white wedding dress posing as a journalist and asking assorted players to marry her.
But it did include Patriots owner Robert Kraft taking on Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, Sherman taking on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Marshawn Lynch taking on the NFL’s media policy, Rob Gronkowski talking about puppies and his favorite breakfast cereal called, of course Gronkflakes, and Bill Belichick talking about movies and assorted other topics both consequential and not.
It was, in other words, a strange couple of hours for which some fans actually paid $28.50 to see their favorite players conduct interviews.
Sherman, already a star on the field, is showing himself a luminary observer of all things NFL.
The NFL tells players they must appear at media day and other interview sessions throughout the week or face a fine. Player contracts also typically specify that they must cooperate and speak to the media on a weekly basis. Sherman noted the rules should be universal and apply to Goodell.
“I think that if players are going to be obligated to speak to the media, then every one of the NFL personnel should be obligated to speak to the media weekly, and that’s not the case,” Sherman said.
When the Seahawks and Sherman arrived in town, the first issue the cornerback addressed was what he called a “conflict of interest” between Goodell and the Patriots in the ongoing investigation into their deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
Sherman noted Goodell attended a party at New England owner Robert Kraft’s home the night before the game, snapping pictures that show the men are close, and therefore is incapable of rendering an impartial judgment against the Patriots if one is warranted.
Kraft obviously heard Sherman’s take and responded at Media Day.
“I think Richard Sherman is a very smart marketing whiz,” Kraft said. “If you go into the facts of what he said, the NFL always used to pay for a big party for the AFC Championship Game. When the league stopped giving the parties, we started doing it. This is our third one.”
Kraft hosted the party, he said, for the team’s sponsors, which helps the club and NFL add revenue, which obviously helps players such as Sherman collect bigger paychecks.
“I think Mr. Sherman understood that he’s the biggest beneficiary,” Kraft said.
Of course, not all of media day is about verbal sparring. Truth is Seattle running back Lynch would rather not speak to the media at all.
He informed the NFL he didn’t want to participate this day or in any other Super Bowl media availability. And the NFL informed him he didn’t have to if he paid the fine for the sessions he missed — a total of $250,000 if he skipped all the sessions.
Lynch then decided he likes his money more than he hates the media. So he showed up to the hourlong session. Sort of.
Lynch was late and by the time he did arrive he had to part a sea of reporters eager to hear what he would say. And then someone lobbed a question and Lynch responded, “I’m here so I won’t get fined.”
Then another question and Lynch responded, “I’m here so I won’t get fined.”
Over and over Lynch repeated himself. “I’m here so I won’t get fined.”
It went on for six minutes. I know it was six minutes because Lynch held some sort of timer and when it flashed six minutes, he got up and left.
The NFL will decide if that deserves a fine or if indeed Lynch fulfilled his obligation.
Heavy right? Well, Media Day is also wonderfully absurd.
Patriots tight end was talking about his love for the Purina Puppy Bowl.
“I love puppies,” he said. “Who doesn’t?”
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, sporting a beard was asked why he’s let it grow to such proportions.
“Moses had one,” Bennett said. “Genghis Khan had one, Jesus Christ had one. They were long, too.”
And how did Bennett decide on which people got a portion of his Super Bowl ticket allotment?
“Did you pick me up as a kid? Do you know my favorite food? Did you give me a Christmas gift?” he replied.
Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was asked if he has any pregame rituals.
“I talk to my wife, that’s it,” Wilfork said. “Everything else, I don’t have to do. That, I have to do.”
Belichick dressed up for Media Day. He wore flip flops. And he answered hard-hitting questions about his favorite Joe Pesci movies — Home Alone, Home Alone 2 and My Cousin Vinny.
Scandal! How could he omit Casino and Goodfellas? Anyway, Belichick was also asked whether Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the final two minutes of a game he ever saw?
Nope, he said.
“Johnny Unitas,” he said.