From an Atlanta-media standpoint, there’s one upside to the Falcons falling short of reaching Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, and it has nothing to do with walking around Bourbon Street in a perpetual haze.
The one black mark against Super Bowl week used to be Tuesday’s Media Day, a no-holds-barred battleground pitting traditional sports and news media vs. clueless on-air talent from MTV, Telemundo or any other attention-seeking, non-sports network that could entice a bold employee (or hired gun) to propose to an unsuspecting star such as Tom Brady or Eli Manning — while donning a wedding gown.
Or those who conduct semi-serious interviews with fringe players or assistant coaches, dressed in a clown suit or costume headgear that would make Massive Headwound Harry blush.
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But over time, both sides have learned to peacefully share that spotlight for one day — bringing us back to Media Row, the most organized hot mess of Super Bowl week.
On paper, a summit of local and national radio and TV stations performing their jobs under one roof during Super Bowl week seems like a noble pursuit. In fact, whoever hatched the concept of Media Row (sometime after the explosion of sports radio in the mid-1990s) probably deserved a raise many years ago. But Media Row, on the whole, has outlasted its usefulness, devolving into a contrived marketing showcase for five different groups of interview subjects:
1. Current athletes shilling for name-brand deodorant, pet food or foot-powder companies, with little interest of discussing their careers or personal lives.
2. Former athletes rehashing great moments of Super Bowls past — while promoting their own proprietary take on blue-cheese salad dressing.
3. A-list celebrities promoting bad movies coming out in July.
4. B-list celebrities promoting good movies that no one has time to see on Super Bowl weekend.
5. C-list celebs, aka reality-TV stars, keeping their 15 minutes of fame alive with well-timed walks through Media Row, before being hounded by show producers desperate to fill air time in five-minute intervals.
For the record, I am blissfully aware of how most people view sports radio the other 51 weeks of the year — as a vast wasteland of pointless babble, canned jokes, thoughtless rants, shallow analysis and hourly formats that are painfully formulaic. For the most part, they’re right. But at least during the spring, summer and fall months in radio markets across the country, relaxed conversations organically spin into sparkling debates or classic comedic bits.
On Media Row, however, there’s often little comedy and zero chemistry during these interviews — through no real fault of the radio host, who gets maybe seven minutes with a subject while delicately adhering to the draconian measures of PR watchdogs, who are only concerned with:
1. Is my star being badgered with pointed questions that don’t involve a Super Bowl prediction or his/her latest acting role?
2. Is Joe/Jane Radio Host trying to steal one extra second of their allotted seven-minute window?
3. Is my client not getting ample time to endorse the deodorant company that’s paying for his/her and my flight, hotel, meals, expenses and tickets to exclusive parties during Super Bowl week?
Here’s the plan: If you’re going to consume Media Row this week — and you have access to satellite radio or the glorious TuneIn or iHeartRadio apps for the iPhone — stick with hosts who gleefully share raucous accounts of one-star hotel stays, celeb sightings while trying to score dinner reservations at Antoine’s, Bon Ton’s Cafe, GW Fins,Commander’s Palace or The Pelican Club — or their most debaucherous tales from some of New Orleans’ finest watering holes and/or adult-entertainment venues.
At least they’re trying to liven up three or four days of broadcasting misery with personalized stories of legendary fun — none of which occurred at a corporate event sponsored by anti-dandruff shampoo makers.