On Football

No Cheering in the Press Box, Except When It Comes to the Boss

Tony Kornheiser makes his Super Bowl pick. Video by Atkinson & Co.
By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2009

TAMPA -- In the sober cathedral of nobility otherwise be known as the Super Bowl media center, there has always been a certain scorn among the gentry for those who pollute our chambers with frivolity. It is for this reason we disdain the annual bazaar known as Super Bowl media day with all its sideshow characters desperate for a glimmer of fame: A TV reporter in a wedding dress? How dare she trample our hallowed soil.

We are the media, of course, and in these troubled times we must deliver the necessary reporting of a story so significant it appears the fans of neither participating team have elected to come here to witness it.

Then came the news conference Thursday afternoon on the media center's third floor. Bruce Springsteen was in the house. Here, decorum dropped.

A moment like this had been coming for some time now. The NFL, in an attempt to make each Super Bowl more super than the one before it, always convenes a news conference for the halftime act four days before the big game. In recent years this has threatened to bring mayhem as supposedly austere reporters abandon their work and run like screaming teenagers to the great room to watch one singer after another ramble on about how they know nothing about football yet are delighted at the mounds of publicity their appearance on the most-watched television program of the year will bring.

In some years, the news conference was something to miss. Others, when Bono or Keith Richards was around, it was not.

But nothing brings tears to the eyes of middle-age men more than the Boss. And almost an hour before the news conference began, an army of said middle-age men clad in ill-fitting Dockers made their way up the grand staircase, hastily shoving through the aisles of the darkened conference room in hopes of securing a seat near enough to the stage that their PowerShots would work.

There were, of course, some tense moments as the Dockers Army waited through a tedious first news conference with pregame show acts Faith Hill and John Legend. It rolled its collective eyes when Hill happened to mention in one 10-minute stretch that she was a fan of the New Orleans Saints, the Tennessee Titans and the Arizona Cardinals. To which a woman from the Arizona Republic happily bounced to her feet and gushed, "You're the only celebrity other than Jordin Sparks to come out and say you like the Cardinals!"

The Dockers Army groaned. Hill looked flummoxed before finally stammering: "I don't know how to answer that question."

"This is not journalism's finest hour," one of the esteemed reporters mumbled with disgust. "It really makes us look like a bunch of goobers."

Then, after what seemed like an interminable wait, there was Bruce! He came with the E Street Band and he beamed under the spotlights. And from the collected mob rose a most undignified cheer, for even though there was security at the door checking credentials, some interlopers undoubtedly had gotten in since everybody knows there is no cheering in the press box or the press room or even the press conference for Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl. Even if it was his first news conference in more than 20 years.

"Did I do one that soon?" Springsteen asked with mock shock when that fact was delivered to him.

He laughed. The mob in the room laughed. Flashbulbs flickered. The Boss shouldn't have worried. He had this crowd like it was the third hour of his fifth night in the row at the Meadowlands. He just sat back and let the love spill around him.

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