How to handle distraction week before Super Bowl week
Sure, the Super Bowl is just another game, but the epic two weeks leading up to the game are anything but normal.
Having played in Super Bowls XLI and XLVII, I knew not to let the hoopla and the fanfare get the best of me … the second time around. I enjoyed the parties in Miami as a Chicago Bear when we played the Indianapolis Colts. I went to a lot of events and engaged with the fans during the week.
Last year in New Orleans, I didn’t do much of anything besides Yelp my way around the Crescent City with my family, dining at all of NOLA’s best eateries.
Ed Reed and Jacoby Jones, a couple of Louisiana natives, gave us a taste of New Orleans when they started listening to Monster Wit Da Fade in the locker room in training camp.
Monster Wit Da Fade is a New Orleans street rapper turned YouTube sensation with his freestyle raps. He rapped mostly about the food in Louisiana. Everyone on the team started listening to Monster and he became quite popular in the locker room. Reed and Jones joked that they were going to give him tickets to the Super Bowl when we made it.
Well, we made the big game and one day before practice Monster was at the team hotel getting his tickets from Reed. He performed for us as we all huddled around him, cheered him on and sang along. In a sense, he helped us get through the season and now he was the star and we were his fans supporting him.
One of the most eye-opening experiences is the sea of media that fills up the hotel conference room or the stadium on Wednesday and Thursday. Media from all over the world ask wacky questions and dress in wacky outfits.
One second I’m doing an interview for a Japanese network, and then I turn around and have to flip the script to Spanish for a Mexican network. These events don’t happen during the regular season. So many more people have access, and so many more people want you, because you are in the big game.
During the bye week before Super Bowl XLVII, I had mentioned I was going to bring my equal rights discussion with me. I was a bit overzealous the week prior to the Super Bowl, so I knew on media day that I wanted to stick to mostly football but use the platform of being a Super Bowl champion to fight harder for equality.
We just had to win the game first.
That Wednesday started out as planned. I stuck to football and touched equality a bit but had it on the back of my mind. The 49ers’ media time followed ours that day. Chris Culliver, a DB for the 49ers, had made some homophobic remarks in their press conference.
The following day at our media session was an onslaught of media and attention awaiting me, wanting to talk about Culliver’s comments. Once again, equality and LGBTQ rights was on the forefront of the media agenda just as it was when the season started, thanks to my friend and colleague Chris Kluwe and his scathing, open letter to delegate Emmett Burns of Maryland.
The only letdown in NOLA was the family hotel. The NFL dropped the ball, logistically.
The Ravens’ family members stayed at a separate place, while the team hotel was The Hilton. The family hotel was a filthy, old hotel that was totally unacceptable — an unnecessary distraction, to say the least.
I had my family stay there for one night and I was concerned with their safety and comfort level. One of my teammate’s family members — with children — was stuck in a cramped, hot elevator for three hours. I knew I had to move them.
I called every hotel in town as well as the NFLPA and there was absolutely nothing open in the city. So I did what any concerned husband and parent would do. I made the executive decision to have my family stay in the team hotel with me in my room. I ordered an extra rollaway bed for my daughter to sleep in, while I slept in bed with my wife and 2-year-old son.
I knew there was a lot on the line by having my family stay in my room. Potential repercussions such as not being allowed to play in the game for breaking team rules did weigh in on my decision-making process.
They ended up staying in my room with me for four nights. The night before the game I had them go back to the family hotel so I could get proper rest and avoid any problems because we did have bed check that evening.
In a week when everyone comes out of nowhere asking for tickets, interviews, shout-outs on Twitter and anything else you can imagine, the guys on the team made a conscious effort to slow the week down and put the brakes on the moments and time we spend with each other.
On the bus rides to practice, in the meeting rooms, and on the practice field we would be sneaking our phones around taking video and pictures of every moment. Capturing Monster Wit Da Fade, pictures with my teammates in our Super Bowl jerseys, my own jersey hanging in the locker or Ray Lewis’s final pregame speech were all priceless. These great moments have come and gone, but the memories will last a lifetime.