Hour at media day well spent with ex-Wildcat
GLENDALE – Sixty minutes with Tedy Bruschi. There are worse ways to spend an hour.
It was Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday, and I didn’t much care about Tom Brady’s ankle, Bill Belichick’s hoodie, the woman from TV Azteca wearing a wedding dress or finding out who Michael Strahan thinks should play him in a movie.
I was just concerned about Bruschi.
I planted myself in front of his booth on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium. Sixty minutes. That’s the allotted time the media gets with each team.
“Coming out here and seeing this scene and all this attention, it’s not really eye-popping anymore, but it’s still impressive, if you ask me,” Bruschi said. “I’m not really in awe like I was in 1996, but I’m still very much enjoying it.”
It’s been 12 years since I’ve seen Bruschi.
He was an All-American defensive end for Arizona’s Desert Swarm teams from 1992-95, one of the all-time greatest Wildcats.
Now, he’s a 34-year-old middle linebacker at his fifth Super Bowl, all with the New England Patriots. He goes for his fourth ring Sunday against the New York Giants.
He’s Mr. Popular in New England, affable and quotable, beloved for his competitive spirit and admired for his unprecedented return to professional football after a stroke in 2005.
You would think the nameplate on the front of his booth would be spelled correctly.
It read “Brushci.”
With the single-mindedness of a 5-year-old, this would be a nonstop source of amusement for the reporters. Asked about it for about the fourth time, it finally dawns on Bruschi how something so stupid could have happened.
“Must have been a Sun Devil alum,” he says.
The Patriots are training at Arizona State. Last week, Bruschi, showing enduring disdain for his rival, said he would have to “shower twice” after working out at Sun Devil Stadium. He’s making the best of it now.
“I have fond memories of playing in that stadium,” he says. “I walked down the hallway, past the pictures of old players, and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I sacked him, tackled him, forced a fumble on that guy . . .’ ”
A girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, comes up to the booth. “How often do you wear your Super Bowl rings?” she asks.
Bruschi answers that he’ll wear them in the offseason at times, especially if he is meeting with a group of kids.
“If I let them hold the rings,” he says, “I don’t let them get too far away.”
Studio host Rich Eisen of the NFL Network interrupts the proceedings, looking for a cheap promo. From his set, just a first down away from Bruschi’s booth, Eisen stands up and asks, “What is your favorite source of NFL news and entertainment?”
Yes, media day is a circus, wrapped in self-promotion, surrounded by the kind of frenzy you’d get at a Britney Spears nightclub appearance.
Later, Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight arrives with Claudia Jordan, one of the briefcase girls from Deal or No Deal. Frazier is making a big fuss about handing out ET’s Super Bowl awards. Oh, joy.
He hands Bruschi the “Barry Manilow Award” because of his musical skills with the saxophone.
Another problem. Bruschi’s name is misspelled again. It reads “Teddy” on the award.
Bruschi twists around to show us his back, wondering, “Is the name OK on the back of my jersey?”
So far, so good. Check back Sunday.
Someone asks, “Are you following the presidential races?” Answer: Not right now.
Someone else wonders if Bruschi has heard the story of a guy who paid $50,000 for four Super Bowl tickets. Bruschi shrugs. “I hope he has a good time,” he says.
Not all of it is nonsense.
Bruschi says this about his Desert Swarm days under coach Dick Tomey:
“That really put the attitude into my head that when a team even gains a yard, you get upset. That was the standard I was used to coming into my NFL career.”
He says this about current UA coach Mike Stoops: “Every time I go back to Arizona, I make a point to meet with him or play golf with him. He’s a great guy. I think he is on the cusp of achieving what he wants to achieve.”
He says this about being a stroke survivor: “I’ve talked to a lot of stroke survivors, and a lot of times in your recovery, you think something is wrong with you. It’s like, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ There is nothing wrong with you. It happens to a lot of people.”
ESPN’s Chris Berman walks up. It’s not enough for the sycophantic anchor to stand behind the barrier and ask questions like the rest of us. He slides up to Bruschi on the dais and corrals a one-on-one while the rest of us wait. Go away, Berman.
Later, a young man introduces himself as being from the University of Arizona. Bruschi challenges him, “Sing the fight song.”
The kid does so without hesitation.
The student gets an answer to his question and turns to leave.
Bruschi calls out, “Good job, by the way, with the fight song.”
Bruschi gets a version of this hard-hitting probe more than a few times: “What is the dumbest question you’ve heard today?”
We just might have a winner.
On it goes.
The 60 minutes are nearly over. The crowd has thinned. The guy wearing a gold turban who was going around telling players’ fortunes never stopped by.
The sun is shining through the open roof of the stadium, but, at the angle, Bruschi is the only player on the field bathed in sunlight.
“It’s good to feel the Arizona sun on my face,” he says.
Good to spend some time with you, Tedy.
N.Y. Giants (13-6) vs. New England Patriots (18-0)
When: 4:17 p.m. Sunday; Where: Glendale; TV: FOX; Line: Pats by 12
ANOTHER STRONG YEAR
Season and career stats for ex-Arizona Wildcat Tedy Bruschi:
Category 2007 Career
Solo 64 669
Assists 28 365
Total tackles 92 1034
Sacks 2 30.5
Passes broken up 2 60
Interceptions 0 12