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Ian Herbert: Super Bowl media blitz brings old friends together

BY IAN HERBERT: SPORTSMONDAY COLUMN

Published February 6, 2006

If you've read any columns about Super Bowl media day or any of the events leading up to the big game, then you probably already know how ridiculous it can be. This week, I was able to experience the glory, the horror - whatever you want to call it.
The whole thing is quite a spectacle. I was berated by Rob Schneider ( Deuce Bigalow) for sitting on a couch a little too close to his feet, and I saw Keith Richards tell 300-plus people that he would eat cockroaches. I witnessed Tom Arnold tell Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that marriage comes once every four years. I was present when Mo Rocca told the quarterback his name "sounds Jewish."
Gov. Jennifer Granholm served food in the media lounge, and, when Kwame Kilpatrick was asked about business going over to Windsor where the laws are a little less strict, he responded, "Well, I guess a bad answer is that we'll let you get away with a little more here."
But the Super Bowl isn't just about the spectacle. Most of the questions at media day, believe it or not, were actually football related and not just Gilbert Gottfried acting stupid. I met three people - or rather three sets of people - who had great stories about meeting up with old friends and enjoying the week with their pals. I guess that's the best part about the experience.

Adam and Rich
According to Adam, maybe the title should be Rich and Adam. You might have heard of Rich Eisen, former Sportscenter anchor and current host on the NFL Network. But Adam Schefter probably isn't a name you know. He's only written three books, covered the Denver Broncos for 15 years (he said he averaged 540 stories a year) and is now a reporter for the NFL Network - so he hasn't really done much that you might have seen.
Both Eisen and Schefter went to Michigan in the late '80s, and they both worked here, at The Michigan Daily. Schefter said he wasn't planning on working at the paper, but when he didn't get into a frat, he went looking for something to do. Eisen said he always knew he wanted to be a television anchor, and he said what he's doing now is his "dream job." They were both sports editors - Schefter's column name was "The Schef Specialty" and Eisen's - then Richard - was "Get Rich Quick."
"To think that we worked together in the '80s, and we work together now is a little bit mind-blowing," Schefter said.
A phone call from Eisen got Schefter on board at the NFL Network, and the Super Bowl in Detroit got both of them back to the area. Last Saturday, in fact, the two came back to Ann Arbor. They went to Red Hawk for dinner, and then made it over to Rick's afterwards.
"Rich was never cool enough to get into Rick's when he was at Michigan," Schefter said.
They didn't work together too often at the Daily, but Eisen now calls his buddy "an invaluable part to NFL Total Access."
They couldn't have taken more different routes from Ann Arbor to the NFL Network, but seeing them together at the Renaissance Center in Detroit and hearing stories about coming back to Ann Arbor for dinner and drinks made it clear that the Super Bowl could be about more than Tom Arnold and Gilbert Gottfried.
"I'm just thrilled that the two of us are back together," Eisen said.

Speaking of making it back to Ann Arbor .
The most popular players at Seahawks media sessions were always Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck. But Steve Hutchinson was a trendy choice as well. The Detroit media swarmed the Pro Bowl lineman, asking not so much about Hutchinson, his NFC Champion Seahawks or the league MVP that he blocked for all season, but more about his best friend: Lion lineman Jeff Backus.
Backus and Hutchinson still talk regularly, but this week they got together and went to Mr. Spot's.
"Normally, six or seven years ago, we would have had a contest," Hutchinson said. "But we're getting a little older now, and we're not able to eat as much."
Michigan fans remember Backus and Hutchinson as two of the Wolverine's great linemen. They were drafted back-to-back in the first round of the 2001 draft, and, like Rich and Adam, they've had two different careers since leaving Michigan. Backus has had a decent career but has played on one of the worst teams in the NFL during the last five years. Hutchinson, of course, is now in the Super Bowl.
He said that they don't talk much about how things could have been different, but he said Backus is excited to turn things around.
It's possible that Hutchinson and Backus will eventually make it back together, like Eisen and Schefter, and play on the same team. But not right now. For now, they have the phone calls. And whenever there's another Super Bowl in Detroit, they'll make it back to Mr. Spot's.

40 and counting
I talked to a handful of other Michigan graduates throughout the week - Dhani Jones, Jerame Tuman, Jeremy LeSueur and Larry Foote. But probably the coolest group of people I met at media week was one that I would never have even expected to run into. I didn't get their names, but on Thursday I sat on the couch - the same one as the Rob Schneider altercation - next to two couples who have been to all 40 Super Bowls.
One of the couples had been married for more than 60 years and the other two have been together for 40-plus. They live in Colorado and Texas, but the four of them get together every year to go to the Super Bowl. The guys sat there next to me and reminisced about Super Bowl II and the '85 Bears. They told me that my idol - Redskins quarterback Doug Williams - had a great day, but probably shouldn't have won the Super Bowl MVP.
Their wives showed me pictures of guys at the first Super Bowl and told me about their kids. They talked a little bit about the Super Bowls, but mostly they just wanted to know about my girlfriend.
"Do you have a cute girlfriend?" one asked.

I wasn't expecting to get a credential when I first applied back in the fall, but I certainly wasn't going to turn it down. It ended up being the last thing I'm going to do for the paper. I can only hope that, in the future, I'll meet up with some of my best friends at Super Bowl LX - wherever it may be.

This is Ian Herbert's last column for The Michigan Daily. He hopes you enjoyed the ride and hopes you have fun with Sharad Mattu and Matt Venegoni, who will be writing the Sports Monday Column the rest of the year. Ian can be reached at iherbert@umich.edu.