Updated: January 28, 2014 at 6:15 pm
NEWARK, N.J. — In a far, hidden corner of the Prudential Center, Ben Garland experienced the true meaning of a Super Bowl media day.
"What's the strangest dream you've ever had?" the reporter asked, straight-faced.
Ben is an officer in the Air Force. He's from Grand Junction. Ben didn't expect to be asked about his dreams. He paused.
"I was riding a dinosaur," he said.
Annnnd…. we're off.
Welcome to the first Super Bowl hosted in the New York/New Jersey metro area. There's nothing like it; no city like it, no comparison for it, no rhyme or reason to it.
"Decker!" a female reporter shouted. "Here's my finger. Will you put a ring on it?"
Hosting a Super Bowl in this region is more science experiment than sport:
Here, let's throw the world's biggest single-game sporting event into the world's biggest media center. Just for good measure, toss in the world's biggest sports star and, ya know, see what happens.
"I've been asked about my legacy since I was 25 years old," Peyton Manning said.
Thirty-two cameras smothered the dais where Peyton would say Peyton things. And that was 90 minutes before the ultimate quarterback even arrived.
By the time Manning hit his stride — stepping down from the stage to hug an 83-year-old woman wearing a No. 18 — the throng of cameras and recorders had grown to 15 rows deep.
It was as if Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen was tuning up for an acoustic set.
"I'm not sure you can have a legacy when you're 25 years old, or even 37," Manning continued. "I thought you had to be 70 to have a legacy."
Miss New Jersey, in a lace dress, smiled her bright whites on the Jumbotron. The Jets and Giants marching bands thumped their drums across the AstroTurf. Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate wore a camera on his ballcap — to film the media filming him. Garland took questions about his strangest dreams.
A Motown dance troupe sang, "My Girl."
More like, My word.
There's something unnerving about a police escort, carrying hundreds of spoiled media, rolling through downtown Newark with the temperature hovering at 10 degrees.
Maybe it was the homeless man sleeping next to an abandoned church building.
I don't know.
What we know is that a Super Bowl remains an over-the-top production that has very little to do with the actual Super Bowl.
But a Super Bowl in New York/New Jersey?
Nothing like it, for better or for worse.
Garland used to fly F-16 fighter jets at the academy. This Super Bowl feels like that.
"Imagine a rollercoaster on steroids," he said.
Props to the hard-working men and women who pull this off, if they do.
"Between 8,000-9,000 (volunteers)," Al Kelly, the president of the Super Bowl host committee, told me. "There are 21 counties in the state of New Jersey. All 21 counties had people volunteer. Then we had people from 11 different counties in New York."
There's a certain distinction New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to make clear: "The Super Bowl is in New Jersey."
That's fine, good sir. But then why are they the New York Giants and New York Jets? They play in New Jersey, too.
"It's such a spectacle," John Elway said.
This Super Bowl confirms the Super Bowl is about Super Bowl week. The events this week are sprawled between Newark, Jersey City, midtown Manhattan and a cruise boat, the "Cornucopia Majestic," floating in between, on the Hudson River.
"One of the biggest challenges we've had from the beginning is the geographic footprint," Kelly said. "The other thing about the two states is they're separated by a river, which complicates it a little further."
Times Square will be shut down to traffic from Thursday-Sunday. They're calling it Super Bowl Boulevard.
"This whole thing is as crazy as everybody says it is," Garland said.
One man, a lifelong fan, paid $110 to watch his beloved Broncos answer questions at media day. Another man wore a Where's Waldo outfit, apparently, to get interviewed by the pretty lady from Azteca Deportes.
Decker! took questions about his pregnant wife's eating habits.
"If she's up at 1 or 1:30 with a bowl of cereal, I'm right there with her," he said.
Awwww. But what's the strangest dream you've ever had?