What it was like to be with the media during Super Bowl 50

I was stunned when I was offered the opportunity to write about the week preceding Super Bowl 50, and the big game itself. I stepped onto a plane and into a week-long whirlwind of media coverage in San Francisco.

I started to accept a constant state of motion. The Monday before the Super Bowl involved 22 hours of sleeplessness, between flying to San Francisco with coworkers, riding the train to our hotel, walking to the Moscone Center (Super Bowl media headquarters) for credentials, getting bused more than an hour away to San Jose for Media Night, chasing down the first stories of the week while the teams were introduced in the SAP Center arena, writing our articles until 12:30 a.m. Charlotte time, then going back to San Francisco and eating dinner. Day One set the get-up-early-and-stay-up-til-midnight pace of the week.

Media Night

I adapted to writing anywhere and lugging my computer everywhere. I followed the veterans’ leads and set up my phone as a hotspot so I could type on a bus from San Jose, or in a coffee shop in Super Bowl City, or in a taxi to somewhere, or on a bench in the dark outside a party. (I was so out of place that night that a guy walked up to me and asked me if I don’t like parties.)

Super Bowl City

My media badge made me feel entitled to every experience I didn’t feel I belonged in. Weaving across the arena floor with both teams for questions during Media Night in San Jose. Sitting at round tables at the San Jose Convention Center with Panthers players and taking videos. Peppering NFL celebrities with questions on the red carpet during the Madden Bowl party in San Francisco, and then standing in the front for the subsequent DJ Khaled/Ludacris/Fall Out Boy concert. Mingling at the boozy media party at the Explorium. Tasting chefs’ dishes at the even boozier Taste of the NFL Party in Daly City, and then standing in the front for the subsequent Third Eye Blind concert. Sitting in on the halftime show press conference with Coldplay. Every door opened to my plastic media pass on a string around my neck. And involved some metal detectors and bag checks.

It was euphoric. I was flying in a cloud of coffee and excitement and stress and the continual question of what was next.

But I was quietly – constantly – put in my place the whole week. The same day I got there I found out my media credentials weren’t going to get me into the one event that seemed to matter – the Super Bowl. The same day I got there I felt smaller than the hundreds of other journalists that swarmed in. They shot out interview questions faster and louder and with more authority and sports knowledge than I mustered. (Why I could only stare at Luke Kuechly and never fit a question in.)

They seemed to write faster, decide article angles faster, Tweet faster. Hell, they even partied harder, stayed up later and got up earlier like some unstoppable forces of nature.

But Super Bowl Sunday came and I found my own two stories to tell, before the game and during.

As for after: By the time I passed out on my red-eye home after the Super Bowl, it didn’t matter who wrote faster or whose articles went more viral on the Internet. It mattered that there is a story that’s so important to the American audience that hundreds of journalists converge to write about it for six days, cranking out hundreds of articles and hundreds of angles.

It mattered that, when I woke up, I knew there would be another story to tell.

Photos: Katie Toussaint