But Joel Bengoa had a job to do. He had to ask the players what they thought of his dress and the red feather boa that hugged his neck like a lovesick serpent. Then he had to tell them in “come-hither” tones that he’d be there for them after the game.
Did he come up with this idea himself?
“No,” he grunted with a hint of disgust at the new depths he found himself crawling through in the pursuit of journalistic immortality. “Blame the producer.”
Bengoa was off chasing down another player before another question could be asked, his cameraman scurrying to keep up with him. But there really wasn’t anything left worth knowing. It was Media Day for Super Bowl XLIII, and Bengoa was just following orders.
If there were a Media Day Hall of Fame, Bengoa would be in it — a first-ballot unanimous selection. Over the years, we’ve had kid reporters and bible-thumping reporters and entertainment reporters. We’ve had Julie Brown and Gilbert Gottfried and this year Ross “The Intern” Matthews from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. We had a woman who dressed up like a bride last year offering what remains of her honor in matrimony to various players.
But to my knowledge, Bengoa is the first member of the media to dress up in drag for the NFL’s big day before the cameras. My hat’s off to his producer for livening up the day.
Still, Media Day was more staid than usual. There’s been a perception that there are fewer reporters this year than in recent years, but that’s true only in relation to last year, according to the NFL P.R. department.
Just the same, the level of loopiness is definitely down this year, with Bengoa providing the only performance that was truly over-the-top.
After Bengoa, the next best effort was delivered by another Latin-American reporter, Ines Sainz of TV Azteca, who worked her way through the throngs with a tape measure, looking for the player with the biggest biceps. Sainz said she had measured someone — she couldn’t remember who it was — before who had 24-inch pythons. This year, she said Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith stretched the tape at 27 inches.
“That’s bigger than my waist,” she said. “Is that healthy?”
Then there was Ross Matthews, the openly gay reporter for Leno, who came with a pink football as a prop and asked players why they keep slapping each other on the butts. “I think it’s the only sport where they encourage butt-slapping,” he chirped to Dezmond Sherrod, a practice squad player for the Steelers. Sherrod played along with Matthews’ act, but drew the line at bending over to hike the ball to Matthews, who feigned being heartbroken.
If you just walk the line of podiums, catching snippets of interviews, it’s like walking a gauntlet of clichés.
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