Confessions of a Super Bowl Journalist
By Tech. Sgt. Angela Walz, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 16, 2008
PHOENIX -- At Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., the heavy hitters came out to play. ESPN, FOX News, Sports Illustrated and El Tigre News (that's right... El Tigre), sent their finest journalists to cover one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. Just as the New York Giants were unlikely contenders against the 18-0 New England Patriots, El Tigre was an unlikely contender for media credentials.
Who would have thought the National Football League would deem the El Tigre News worthy of Super Bowl media credentials? I have to admit--I was a little skeptical myself. But there I was, a meek military journalist, heading to the University of Phoenix Stadium on gameday with Senior Airman Sarah Flint, the 162nd Fighter Wing photographer; both of us lucky to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I was still a little unsure when they handed over the credentials at the Media Center in downtown Phoenix. "Pregame" and "half-time" access--what does that mean? We loaded the shuttle bus to the stadium five hours prior to kickoff in our quest to find out.
There was an aura of excitement surrounding the venue from miles away. For some reason, it just looked bigger and brighter that day. The air was crisp, and already filled with the smell of tailgating festivities.
We made it through the extensive security checks and ventured out to see just how far those credentials would get us. Pregame access, we realized, actually gave us admission to the field. There I stood, in the middle of where the "Super Upset" was about to be played.
Sarah, as giddy as she was about the whole experience, snapped away with her camera while I hunted out the media big-wigs who I thought might be interested in the 162nd Fighter Wing's air defense and anti-terrorism missions at the big game. The Pentagon Channel representatives, of course, jumped at the chance for an on-camera interview about the 162nd's role in Arizona's Super Bowl. Brian Kilmeade from Fox News, however, was only interested in football. How could I blame him? I smiled anyway and he put his arm around my shoulder for a souvenir photo.
Everything changed when the players arrived. It was touching when Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau searched out their families in the crowd and pulled them down onto the field. The sight made me feel conflicted about rooting for the Giants. After all, Tom Brady was playing for the Patriots. "Should I be cheering for New England instead," I wondered. Sarah snapped more photos.
There were celebrities abound before the pregame show. Alicia Keys was spectacular. We stood behind the crowd on the field and enjoyed the music. There was a moment of pride when Arizona's own Jordin Sparks belted out the National Anthem. The 108th Army Band drummers of the Honor Guard looked sharp on the field behind her as they presented the colors. I knew the Navy's Blue Angels were flying overhead right then because we had chummed it up earlier in the day. They had better access passes than us, of course.
Finally our pregame rights of entry ended and we were whisked away to a media room to watch the game in high definition on a large-screen TV like the rest of the world. We were later shuffled back down to the field because of the "half-time" credentials that dangled from our happy little necks.
I was suddenly in football heaven. With more than two minutes to play in the half, we stood on the sidelines and watched while the Patriots and the Giants played the NFL's championship game. It was surreal. I'd rank it right up there with my wedding day and the births of my two children--but don't tell them that.
For me, the half-time show by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was overshadowed by the excitement I still felt from those few minutes of live play. I had a moment to talk with Airman First Class Chadwyck McDaniel. He won a raffle while serving in Iraq and was enjoying his royal treatment from the NFL.
Then we were whisked off the field again and directed back to the media room. Airman Flint and I jumped on the shuttle bus instead and listened to the final minutes of play from an AM radio while sitting in a parking garage in downtown Phoenix.
I drove back to Tucson thankful that the Anti-Terrorism office was never put to work that day, and all of our jets landed with their respective payloads. I smiled all the way home consumed with pride at the fact that the Arizona Air National Guard, the real patriots, were always there, always ready--just in case.