By Steve Keating
HOUSTON (Reuters) – It was Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday when the National Football League opened its borders to all saying; give us your weird, your strange and wackiest questions.
Members of the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, who will clash on Sunday to decide the NFL championship, kicked off Super Bowl week taking turns facing an eclectic media mob in a televised prime time question-and-answer free-for-all where very little is out of bounds.
While Houston busily put the finishing touches on its Super Bowl preparations, Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Astros, was transformed into an NFL rave kicking off a week-long football-fest.
There were glitzy introductions, thumping music and hundreds of media members from Japan, Britain, Mexico, Austria, Australia and other corners of the globe all happily mingling as fake news purveyors brushed up against more serious minded journalists.
The NFL, which normally tightly controls access to players, has made no noticeable effort to clamp down on the irreverent vibe and seems content for one night to let non-traditional media have a piece of the Super Bowl pie.
It is an evening where award winning reporters struggle to have their questions heard above those from a reporter dressed as a Prince accompanied by his cameraman with a bushy beard wearing a princess dress.
Rio Olympic gymnastic gold medalist Simone Biles, turned correspondent for Inside Edition, ended her interview doing back flips asking Atlanta linemen if they could do the same, while another interviewer from Mexico’s Azteca TV attempted to coerce any Falcon player she could corner into dancing the Dirty Bird.
Some players such as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is participating in his seventh Super Bowl, embraced the experience smiling through the entire one-hour session answering every question – no matter how strange.
One moment Brady was asked to name his favorite actors (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg) and the next asked to explain the relationship between a quarterback and his receivers.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity I have had seven chances at,” said a weary Brady as he looked out at a wall of television cameras and reporters.
“We got up at 5:30 AM for meetings, then a long flight and a long night here.
“There’s a lot going on and hopefully our focus is on the game.”
(Editing by Larry Fine)