Mary Paoletti making her first trip to the Super Bowl. This is the first entry in her daily Super Bowl diary:
BOSTON: I rode to the airport in the dark. Amazing you can be on the road at 5:15 a.m. and worry about being late to your destination. But that's exactly what I felt, both because I've missed a flight before (Pittsburgh? Or was it Oakland? Can't remember) and because I'm a worrier. Never on the surface -- there I can usually manage a calm acquiescence to trouble.
Like after losing my black winter hat this morning. Hope it's not too cold in Indiana because I have no idea where my hat is. Likely on the floor of Hudson News.
So it goes.
Otherwise, I'm pretty blank. The excitement I felt percolating the previous week has vanished. I'm tired. I saw some Patriots AFC Championship gear -- hats, tee shirts, magazines -- sprinkled around Logan, but right now it feels like I could be going to Buffalo again.
For the record, I liked Buffalo.
INDIANAPOLIS: Unbelievable. I step off the plane, walk through the tunnel, and the first thing I see in Indy is a familiar face: Bob Glauber from Newsday. What a relief! The cab ride from airport to hotel was infinitely more comfortable traveling with someone who's done all this before. Me? I'm green. And if other reporters can't smell it on me, it doesn't take long for them to find out.
"First Super Bowl?"
It's the return greeting I get from all media I meet. When I say that, yes, it is, the veterans all nod knowingly and sigh some figure housing the years its been since their first time. Then comes the obligatory advice or warnings.
"Oh, boy. Everyone thinks it's fun, but it's all work, ya' know."
Yes. It's work. I know.
But as I look around the airport I'm grateful for my innocence. The building's been decked out like an enormous parade float -- Super Bowl XLVI banners hanging from every inch of wall space, kiosks selling apparel for both teams, logos slapped onto the damn floor -- and it all spills out into the streets.
It's impossible to imagine Indy as a portal for anything but this football game. It's overwhelming.
I can't wait to get started.
INDIANAPOLIS --Monday, 10:41 P.M.: Two days in the bag now.
I think I'm happy with my work. The objective for our Super Bowl coverage this week is high velocity publishing. It's exactly the opposite of how I like to write. Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, described two different types of writers in Timequake: Bangers and Swoopers. Swoopers spit their words on paper; it's quick and dirty. The rough form is then massaged, edited over and over until its just right. Bangers agonize over every single word. The sentences must be perfect the first time out; edits are rare. There's a lot more staring at the blank page than filling it out.
I am not a Swooper.
But I've done well enough, starting with Sunday night's Belichick and Brady Show. Bill Belichick was oddly, maddeningly charming in his press conference. By comparison, Brady was bland. I don't think there was much he said Sunday in Indianapolis I hadn't heard on a November Sunday at Gillette.
Player availability came next.
Matthew Slater, Logan Mankins, Wes Welker, and Brian Waters occupied separate tables in the corners of a vast white tent. I was struck immediately by Slater's body language. It seemed like he was trying to scrunch down in his chair, his chin almost level with the table top. He spoke well, as he always does, and mentioned how his faith shapes his reactions to the day (as he always does). I wonder if he minded being elevated and alone as he was.
Waters is a funny guy. He has a big personality. I imagine it would take a lot to rattle his cage in a press conference. If you're hoping to provoke Waters into a sensational answer, you'll fail. And it's not that he'll throw up the ready-made Patriots brick wall, he'll just laugh and shrug you off as though you're silly for asking. The reporter who asked him to sing a love song about Brady and Belichick's legacies learned this.
Day Two was different.
Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Dan Connolly (Dan Connolly!), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Vince Wilfork showed up to speak after practice.
The room was tiny.
Television cameras formed a barrier in front of each table, annoying the scribes who were forced to jostle for position on the periphery. It might seem like a minor detail, but being in sight of the player you're trying to talk to is important. When three, or 30, reporters are all talking over each other -- "Devin! Devin!" -- making eye contact with the guy might be what lifts your voice above the noise.
I spoke with McCourty and Chung.
Chung seemed tired. He usually has a more dynamic personality than McCourty, is more likely to react with an exaggerated expression or a laugh. He can also cut off a line of questioning mid-sentence if he doesn't like it.
McCourty is amazing in his consistency. I've seen him smile a few times, but I feel like if you annoyed him you'd never know it. I think that's why it's so interesting to me when he celebrates on the field. The celebrations have been rare this year, but they're downright impossible to imagine when the guy doesn't have his helmet on.
The day ended at Don Shula's steakhouse. Yes, the restaurant is an homage to the Shula of Miami Dolphins fame. The cuts of meat were offered via football. Really. I had to take the menu off a tee to figure out what kind of steak I wanted.
While working on my salad I looked out the plate glass window to my left and saw fireworks exploding between buildings. Amazing. I have no idea what they were for. It might be my fault for looking for a reason. Anything goes during Super Bowl week, they tell me.