What it’s like to cover a crazy Super Bowl finish

When it comes to covering the end of a crazy game, there’s a lot that goes on. In the rush to get stuff posted as quickly as possible, it’s frequently a race against the clock to get something tossed up on the Internet. In the midst of all of that, you always have to gather your thoughts about who you want to talk to and what sort of questions you need to ask when you go downstairs. Fortunately, I have a couple of really talented colleagues in Ryan Hannable and Mike Petraglia; Trags has handled the “Snap Judgments” post that goes up right at the end of the game for us. Having done that for several years in the past, it’s not an easy gig. When it comes to a wild ending like the Super Bowl, you have to write and re-write and re-write. His one this year was a piece for the ages.

(I still have three different, unused versions of my game story from the end of Super Bowl XLII that had to be scrapped because of that finish. For what it’s worth, if the Patriots had one and finished off the perfect season, the story was something along the lines of “The 2007 Patriots took their place as the single greatest team in NFL history with an epic win over the Giants Sunday night in the desert….”)

Usually, Ryan, Trags and I would break down who would be responsible for what before we went downstairs. On many occasions this year, Ryan went into the visitors locker room, and he managed to get some great stuff, because frequently it’s just as (if not more) interesting to hear what an opponent has to say about the Patriots than hear from the Patriots themselves. More often than not, Trags and I would head to the Patriots. And one of my other things? Always stick around the locker room as long as you can. You never know who will talk or what they might say. Logan Mankins always took a ton of time, but was always worth sticking around for. This year, it was probably Martellus Bennett who was that guy.

Anyway, on Sunday in Houston, I stuck with Brady and Belichick in the postgame presser. Then, after a few minutes in the postgame interview area (where they bring guys after big events like the Super Bowl), I went to the locker room. The championship locker room celebration in the NFL is usually way different than baseball. Basically, there’s no champagne. Usually pretty buttoned up by comparison. This year, though, someone had a bottle of something, and they popped it open and sprayed it on some teammates. (I honestly didn’t see who it was or what was being sprayed. I was one of a few guys talking to Matthew Slater when it happened.) Robert Kraft was speaking with us, and handed out cigars while guys passed the trophy around and took pictures with it. I made sure to congratulate a few of the players who I had developed a solid relationship with. There’s the longstanding journalistic rule that you can’t cheer for a team you cover. But at the same time, you can acknowledge what you have just witnessed, and say “Good job” to the guys you are truly happy for, like Slater, Chris Long, Nate Solder and others. They booted us out of the locker room soon after that, but not before Bennett walked past a few of us and said, “I’m a champion!”

Then, it was back up to the press box to really get down to the real business of writing. Many of the quotes are already transcribed by teams, and while they usually do a great job, it’s always worth going through your own notes for everything. Empty out the notebook, basically. (If I find a few, I usually post some to Twitter while I’m writing. Good to whet the appetite for some readers.) On Sunday, I wasn’t sure what i was going to use as my lede. A lot of my stuff is written beforehand and kind of sketched out before I get downstairs, but there are always directions that can surprise you. In this case, Brady’s surprise “a lot of shit happened” in the postgame presser proved to be a pretty good entry point, and I kind of built from there. It never ceases to amaze me that some of my best stuff is written quickly, while some of the other stuff I think is good and takes a while and builds after a long stretch of writing tends to be a bit overblown and not so hot. Maybe it’s the adrenaline that comes from writing on deadline and the synapses firing and lack of sleep or too much coffee or whatever. Who knows.

Anyway, the primary focus is on getting stuff up quickly to the blog. Once that’s done, the real column work begins. On Sunday, that meant doing about five of the 10 things, in addition to the blog, at the stadium, before it was time to take a quick break and head back to the hotel. But first … to the field!

When it comes to my job, one of the things I’ve always loved and really appreciated is the fact that I simply get to go to Super Bowls. As a souvenir for friends and family, I’ve gotten a handful of confetti from each of them. So we went down to the field after the game and scooped up some confetti and took some pictures. (See the above shot.) This was (probably) around 2:30 or so Houston time. Hopped back on the media shuttle back to the hotel, where we ordered room service and finished writing while watching an NFL Network replay of the game until 6 a.m. or so. A quick nap and then back to the convention center for the MVP award and press conferences, and another few blog posts after that.

No sleep? No problem. Like Dante Scarnecchia has said, “We’re not building rockets here.” While it’s not the life for everyone — you miss family time, you work long hours on nights and weekends — it’s a blast, especially when you get to cover something so special. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.