Shumann's Super Bowl blog: Meet the press

January 30, 2008 11:34:07 AM PST
"One more question?" This will be the most welcomed phrase for both the Giant and Patriot players and coaches the next week and a half, as the media coverage of the Super Bowl has gotten out of control. I remember Super Bowl 16, where we had a lot of coverage, but it was mostly sports media, not MTV, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, and the rest of pop culture media, that has crossed the line into sports. There used to be a distinction between the two worlds, and now even news wants part of the action. The game has become such a spectacle, if your not there, somethings wrong.

In Super Bowl XVI, we just showed up at the hotel the first few days in a banquet room, and each of us shared a table with another athlete, except the quarterbacks. I remember Guy Benjamin, the former Stanford QB and I shared a table most of the week, and by the end of that week, decided to switch our name tags and pretend to be each other.

So this writer from the New York Times wanted to talk to Guy, now me, about what it was like to play behind Joe Montana. Well Joe was still under the radar as a great QB, until he and Dwight Clark, hooked up for "The Catch" that beat the Cowboys in the NFC title game and sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in the teams history. So I did the entire interview, in my best Guy Benjamin role playing, and I thought it came off well. Why even Guy said afterwards, "you give a better Guy Benjamin interview than I do."

Well as we were wrapping up the story, one of the teams public relations staff overheard me, and afterwards we had to clear up the "misunderstanding" with the NY Times, who's writer was so mad. When we offered up the real Guy Benjamin, he declined. We thought it was good clean misleading fun, but then quickly realized, this game is serious business. Head coach Bill Walsh got wind of the situation, and talked to the entire team about our behavior, even though with his sense of humor, he told us later that was very funny, but don't do it again.

Once practices began, we started meeting the press on the field at the Silverdome, and you just stood around and the press would approach you. We didn't have the microphone set ups at podiums like they do now for the bigger names, while the lesser named players are on their own. Although, it was the same way with the bottom half of the roster, on both teams, as certain players get most of the attention anyway, quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and cornerbacks.

If you were not a starter, chances are you were not going to get much air time, until the end of the press week, when the media had run out of story lines for bigger name players, and decided it's time to give the backups some love. It was almost embarrassing for some players, rookies and free agents, who were young, had not contributed much, as no one wanted to talk to you, and you almost felt left out of all the Super Bowl hype. Which in a way is ironic, as Bill Walsh used to always tell me, you win championships with the bottom half of your roster.

Everyone has superstars; it's the unsung players that make the difference. I always related to that statement, as I was fortunate enough to be a starter and a backup in my career, so I understood both mentalities.

For today's players, they seem to be better adjusted to handle all types of media coverage, answering questions about the game, and those that have nothing to do with the game, like what music is on your iPod, your favorite actress, food or movie of the year. Dealing with the media has become part of your job description as a professional athlete, whether you like it or not, and just like playing, some are better than others in their dealings with the press.

It can become a distraction if you don't feel comfortable, because in a Super Bowl, you have to deal with the media. During the regular season, and even the post season, you can avoid it, saying you have to get treatment of go to a meeting. But in the big game, the league makes it mandatory for all players, so if you were dodging it all season, it may be a huge distraction for you at this time of the year, in the biggest game of your life. Our kicker on the first Super Bowl team, Ray Wersching, who should have been that games MVP, hated dealing with the media. So he would finds ways to just slink around the field and podiums without ever really having to sit down and deal with the press.

It was almost an art form the way he dodged the media, saying he had to go over here, or meet this guy next, it was a juggling act of deception we all could have learned from. Ironically, after the game in which he kicked four field goals, he had to step up to the plate, or the podium in this case, and it still made him uncomfortable. So in the next few weeks, you will be able to tell who likes dealing with the press and who doesn't. Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck hates dealing with the media, as does Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. Eli Manning is not a big fan, while Tom Brady has had so much experience at it, he handles it well wether he likes it or not. So keep an eye on the coverage of Super Bowl 42 the next few weeks, and see if you can tell who is dreading this and who isn't.

Next week, we will pick up my Super Bowl blog, as we creep towards Super Bowl 42, and I will give you my prediction. Since the 49ers won it all in 1982, believe in The Team of Destiny. I will explain that, and pick a winner, as we look for the team that will join that exclusive club -- Super Bowl Champion.

Mike Shumann -- Super Bowl XVI Champion