Hello there, readers. I thought it might be cool to share my experience covering the Eagles’ trip to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota via a diary series here on BGN. So let’s get that started with some observations from what happened on Monday.
1 - Minnesota is cold
I arrived at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport around 1:30 PM Central Time after flying out of Philadelphia. From there, I met up with Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit and we took a shuttle to the media hotel.
Upon first walking out of the airport, my impression was that Minnesota is ... very cold.
Shocker. It’s currently 10 degrees Fahrenheit as I type this and I see there’s a low of negative 14 on Saturday. There’s snow and ice on the ground everywhere, though not too deep.
While the weather might be cold, the people haven’t been. Every Minnesotan I’ve personally interacted with has been really nice. Hence the saying: Minnesota nice.
2 - The Mall of America is monstrous
After dropping our baggage off at the media hotel, Rich and I shuttled over to the Mall of America around 3:00 PM CT.
The first impression of the Mall of America is: “That’s a mall?”
It’s really big. You walk in and look up to immediately realize this place has four floors. The mall directory is a touchscreen that you can search through.
Directories are some Star Trek level stuff here. pic.twitter.com/6a6qvRn7EY— Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier) January 30, 2018
There’s a Ferris wheel and some other rides right in the middle of the mall. Or, at least I think that was the middle. Rich joked that Rob Gronkowski was probably going to find it hard not to ride the rides.
After picking up our credentials, Rich and I started to walk around the mall. On our way upstairs, Rich noticed a group of Patriots running backs casually walking around in street clothes. Shortly after, someone yelling “D-LEW! D-LEW!” ran by. It was Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham going up to hug former Philadelphia running back Dion Lewis.
I also saw Fletcher Cox and some other Eagles players walk by. I’m used to seeing these players up close in the locker room or on the field, but it was different to see so many of them just hanging out at the mall. And not being hounded by anyone for autographs or photos.
Rich and I made our way up to the third floor, where Radio Row is set up. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of media activity there. There’s also a dedicated media area in the mall for people who are trying to get some writing done. And there’s no shortage of free snacks / drinks in the media lounge. Cushy life we live.
3 - Media night is as crazy as it’s hyped to be
Around 5:00 PM CT, we took buses from the Mall of America to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. That’s where Minnnesota’s NHL team, the Wild, play.
I sat next to The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman on my way over. Rodger and I used to do some social media shifts together for SB Nation. Rodger asked me what the fan reaction is like in Philly with the Eagles doing so well. I told him that I’m both really excited and kind of afraid to see what happens to the city if the Eagles win the Super Bowl. (Please don’t burn it down, folks. Or at least wait until the parade is over. Just kidding.) He also asked me about the legendary Larry Poff. I love how the “Jeff Garcia he’s our baby guy” has such a large presence outside the city.
After going through the security check-in at the Xcel Energy Center, the media was brought to a large waiting area where there were more free snacks and drinks. We sat there until it was time to head out to the floor where the stage and podiums were set up for the Super Bowl’s opening night.
Super Bowl media night. pic.twitter.com/4o19Ozxxwb— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 30, 2018
On my way in to the arena floor, I met a friendly man who introduced himself Super Bowl Wayne.
“What makes you Super Bowl Wayne?” I asked.
“I’ve been to 37 Super Bowls in a row,” he said.
“That’s it?” I joked.
Along with a ton of media types on the floor, there were a good number of fans in the stands who bought tickets to watch media night in person.
The Patriots were up first. After being formally introduced on the stage, head coach Bill Belichick and the key players of interest (ex: Tom Brady) went to their podiums to field an array of questions for over an hour. The Patriots players who didn’t get their own podium were hanging out on the floor, also available to reporters.
I didn’t have many questions for the Patriots but I did get a chance to hear from former Eagles cornerback Eric Rowe. He said that, until now, he didn’t even think about how it’s kind of crazy how Nelson Agholor and him were both playing on the outside for the Eagles and now they’ve since moved into the slot. (The feeling here is that’s going to be a key matchup in the game, by the way.)
Also funny to me how the outrage about the Eagles trading Rowe last year quickly vanished this season. You don’t hear a peep about him anymore. I almost forgot he was on their roster.
Check out my video of the Patriots portion of media night below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page. [Click here if you can’t see it.]
Super Bowl media night!Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Monday, January 29, 2018
Safe to say no one wants to talk to Tom Brady. pic.twitter.com/xx6JTuHcnL— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 30, 2018
After the Patriots were done, some of their players came back out on stage with the Eagles for an awkward little interview session conducted by both ESPN and NFL Network. Tom Brady and Nick Foles sat together on one side while Malcolm Jenkins and Devin McCourty sat on the other. This was easily the highlight of that interview:
Malcolm Jenkins just let Tom Brady know that he keeps the ball from his pick six on Brady in 2015 in his man cave. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 30, 2018
Eagles and Patriots. pic.twitter.com/EdIdaaoSG2— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 30, 2018
The Eagles began speaking around 9:00 PM CT. Same deal as the Patriots when it came to key players at the podiums and other guys walking around in the media crowd.
I talked to quite a few players. I’m still working on a piece with those quotes so I won’t detail that here.
I will mention that Corey Clement bought Madden, NBA 2K, and Call of Duty for the Xbox he purchased at the Mall of America. Clement’s 2K team is the Houston Rockets. He had a really detailed explanation as to why that’s the case. He also told me he puts himself as the starting running back for the Eagles in Madden.
Some of the random things I noticed on the media floor: players doing interviews in dog masks, people conducting interviews in dog masks, a guy dressed up like a shark asking players about Ninja Turtles, etc.
I also went up to Doug Pederson to ask him a question about Sunday’s game. It took a long time to get a question in. Make no mistake: I understand the need for patience in these situations, but some of these media jabronis were acting like this was a one-on-one session for them. This dude legitimately rattled off like 10 questions in a row and Pederson was too nice to break away from him. I was caught on NFL Network with an exasperated look on my face as I was waiting to get a quick question in for Doug.
Also, shoutout to the NFL Network camera guy who legitimately just stood directly in front of the Philadelphia Eagles’ official team camera while Deion Sanders was interviewing Pederson. The Eagles’ camera guy (pictured on the right above) tapped the guy to ask him to move and the camera guy looked back and dismissed him.
Back to Doug, real quick. Interesting how he went with the Rad Dad look (polo and jeans) as opposed to Belichick going with the suit. Here’s a really bad picture of them shaking hands.
Check out my video of the Eagles portion of media night below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page. [Click here if you can’t see it.]
Eagles talking now at Super Bowl opening night!Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Monday, January 29, 2018
After the media session ended, we all shuttled back to the media hotel for the night.
4 - Vikings fans are still so salty
I’m going out of chronological order with this observation because I felt the need to individually highlight it.
I can’t believe how Vikings fans are STILL so salty about losing to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
Let’s start with this guy who was hanging out at the Mall of America.
This is embarrassing on multiple levels.
3 things:— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) January 29, 2018
1) "Philadelphia Feagles"
2) Wasn't there, heard about it "through the media." On Facebook. "It really crushed me," lol.
3) Unnecessary apostrophe. https://t.co/BMJ7k7hAZ6
Losing to the Eagles really has Vikings fans cheering for arguably the most unlikable team in the NFL? Soft.
And it wasn’t just this guy. Vikings fans made their presence felt at Super Bowl media night by booing whenever the Eagles were mentioned or brought out on the stage.
Lot of Vikings fans in attendance at Super Bowl Media Night booed when an announcer asked “Are there any Eagles fans here tonight?”— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 30, 2018
They also broke out a weak SKOL chant when the Eagles were speaking. Just sooooo lame and embarrassing. You guys lost. Get over it.
That does it for Monday’s diary. I’ll have more Super Bowl coverage coming your way today. The Patriots are speaking at the Mall of America from 11:00 through 11:50 AM CT while the Eagles’ media availability will be from 12:40 through 1:30 PM CT.