Super Bowl LVIII Gladiators Of The Gridiron

Written by Richard Joel 

The start of Super Bowl week lived up to the hype and splendor we’d all expect from the NFL on Opening Night. Imagine if you will, the Roman coliseum packed with enthusiastic spectators frothing to see their warrior gladiators take center stage and enter this long-awaited battle…Super Bowl LVIII. 

The NFL put on a spectacular opening night show at The Allegiant Stadium in the host city of Las Vegas, Nevada. They provided a brightly lit and wondrous center stage resembling a cross between a massive WWE ring and high-octane Vegas show complete with a variety of colorfully dressed dancers and musicians, elevated above the floor to showcase the talented players, coaching staffs, and cheerleading squads from both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.

The stands were filled with die-hard fans who held their breath and cheered wildly for each team and player as they made their way onto the big stage. Some such as Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Andy Reid, Brock Purdy, DeeboSamuel, Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle garnered enormous applause from their fans and rightfully so at the same time, some jeers and boos from the from the opposing teams fan base. But one thing was for sure, The Chiefs Kingdom could certainly be heard last night loud and proud and the 49ers fans cheered wildly as the sea of red and gold flowed throughout the seats of the Stadium!

It’s easy to see what drives the players to work so hard year-round, through offseason workouts, preseason trainingand games, then a 17-game regular season…filled with unlimited bumps, bruises, and injuries to make it through a deep playoff run to the Super Bowl… it’s the bright lights, fanfare, and media that turn normal football players into giants among the rest of us.

Now surround the raised WWE-style stage with a floor-filled Media frenzy that the Roman gladiators didn’t have to contend with and it’s easy to see why this is the biggest spectacle in sports. It’s only day one of Super Bowl media week and it’s truly electrifying and magnificent to see up close and personal why NFL fans from all over the globe flock each year to the host city of the NFL Super Bowl,whether they have a much-coveted Super Bowl ticket or not…they still show up to get a mere glimpse of their favorite players and to be a part of the fanfare, the energy, parties, charity events and NFL Superbowl experience that takes over the host city! This year, for the first time, it’sunder the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip. 

On the floor is a plethora of media, both on air and behindcamera, from both big and small publications, TV stations, radio, podcasts, and everything in between all covering the game, players, and head coaches from varying angles of interest. To set this up for those of you who have not had the pleasure to experience opening night media day in person, 10 of the players plus the head coach from each team are situated at their own podiums spread around the floor of the main stage and given one hour to answer all sorts of questions from the media. They’re sitting politely with a mic and throngs of media and camera people at the ready and fighting for their space to get their questions in and hear what these talented professional athletes have to say. 

This is the beautiful part of the night that brings these gladiators back down to earth, where we realize they are as human, humble, smart, humorous, talented and know the game they play like the back of their hand and their teammates’ hands. 

They are asked a blinding variety of interesting questions, ranging from football, the Super Bowl, hometowns, favorite music and food, game day rituals, their playlist,their family, friends, superstitions, who is the best trash talker on the team and best dancer, who and what it would mean to win or lose the big game. Nothing seems to be off-limits!  They answer each question as if it is the most important question they’ll receive all week, with honest, intelligent, and well-thought-out answers, sometimes serious and oh so often with warmth and a sense of humor tossed in.  Although they are physically big men and at the top of their game, they are as human as the rest of us!   

It was clear Patrick Mahomes knows his competition quite well, that Travis Kelce feels some added pressure now that Taylor Swift won two Grammy’s for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for “Midnights,” as Travis said, “I’m going to have to hold up my end of the bargain and come home with some hardware too.”  Brock Purdy is proud to be from Arizona, deeply and wonderfully grounded in his faith, is excited to get married in March, and said “it’s pretty cool to open up packages of football cards and see his card in there.”  When I asked Coach Kyle Shanahan “what did you see in Brock last season that you were willing to trade away Trey Lance and Jimmy G to make him the starter of the 49ers?” Coach Shanahan said, “that was the easiest decision ever, Brock was the most consistent quarterback, from the day they got him in practice, in rookie camp, through OTA’s, through training camp, he felt a certain way and the players felt a certain way.” He continued, “what he did wasn’t a fluke, wasn’t just a record it wasn’t the stats, the film showed it, if he was healthy going into the next year they had a hell of quarterback” and to keep it fun when Coach Shanahan asked what celebrity he would want on the team, he said “Brad Pitt because he was pretty good in the Fight Club.”

And with this, we realize how the players and coaches from both teams must navigate the most interesting of weeks prior to Super Bowl. Keeping their wits about them, whilegiving their attention to the media and fans and at the same time focusing in and preparing for the biggest game of their lives. If they can survive media week, they can thrive in the toughest game, under the brightest lights and on the biggest stage….Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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