An NFL Fan Experience reflection
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 17:03
As a 49ers fan, I’ve had a couple of weeks to try to erase the most recent Super Bowl from my memory. Seeing the team I grew up rooting for looking over-matched as I yelled profanities at the TV is not the big take away for me. When some media day passes became available I decided that I’d be better off hanging out in the convention center for a couple of days with NFL players instead of going to class.
As a photographer and I wandered around the convention center trying to find the media area, we had to walk through the NFL Fan Experience. Football fans who have been watching the game for a while and may even consider themselves experts look like tourists in a small, temporary NFL city that they only thought they knew from years of playing Madden and updating their fantasy teams.
Kids, and adults who couldn’t hide their child-like grins as they took in all the memorabilia, got a chance to pose with the Lombardi Trophy, get an up-close look at game-worn jerseys and walk across a replica draft stage for a photo op. And for anyone who ever booed a kicker off the field for missing a field goal, fans got to attempt a few kicks of their own.
As I watched fans kick the ball sideways, I decided I was done making fun of out-of-work kickers. As far removed as they are from the game at times, they’re still closer than the average fan and manage to not kick the ball completely sideways most times.
Experiences like this are good for fans. As we got to the media area and ran into various NFL superstars, it was difficult to process. You can see a humanizing story about a player on ESPN, but until you spend a whole day with them walking past you, you forget that these guys are regular people who just happen to have really cool high-profile jobs. But this is hard to recognize since the constant NFL coverage by the media creates the illusion of being close.
When Arian Foster limps by you, still injured from a taxing season, and you realize the guy who averaged 16 fantasy points a game is just trying to figure out how to get some free crayfish, it becomes clear. Fans aren’t close to the game or the players at all.
This point was really driven home at Roger Goodell’s press conference on the Friday before the Super Bowl.
Once I was done being in awe of the fact that I was sitting behind Larry Fitzgerald (and taking time to appreciate that he runs as fast as he does with a head that is way too big for his body) Goodell gave Saints fans the biggest compliment he could. When asked by a reporter how he felt about the anger of the Saints fans over the bounty scandal, Goodell said he appreciated their passion. He laughed off the idea of voodoo dolls being made in his likeness and said he hadn’t had trouble being served in any restaurants.
As a fan, that’s the best you can hope for. You can only get as close as the news camera will let you, but if you’re passionate enough, maybe you can get a nod from one of these other wordly figures.
Hasani Grayson can be reached at email@example.com