NEW YORK — Get ready for the Super Bowl freak show.
As the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks prepare to face hundreds of journalists, pseudo-journalists, comedians, pranksters and low-level celebrities, here's a look at some of the great and not-so-great moments in media day history:
MR. ED VS. THE CROSS-DRESSER, 1999: Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan showed up for media day in South Florida wearing a silver-studded dog collar, emphasizing the underdog role his team had against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Things really picked up a couple of days later — not media day, technically, but we'll let it slide — when Buchanan got into it with the mouthiest of the Broncos, star tight end Shannon Sharpe. "That's an ugly dude," Buchanan said. "You can't tell me he doesn't look like Mr. Ed." It didn't take long for those comments to be relayed to Sharpe. "Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser; that's just what I heard."
WILL YOU MARRY ME, 2008: Once a serious endeavor, media day is now a forum for credentialed "media" such as Ines Gomez Mont. The entertainment reporter for Mexico's TV Azteca showed up in Glendale, Ariz., wearing a scanty white wedding dress and towering red pumps. She spent the next two hours trying to persuade someone, anyone, to accept her marriage proposal. "I'm in love with you," she told New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, adding, "I'm the real Miss Brady." The quarterback didn't miss a beat. "I've got a few Miss Bradys in my life," he said. At the time, Brady was dating Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen (now his wife) after fathering a child with former girlfriend Bridget Moynahan. Clearly, Brady needed no more complications in his life.
UNREPENTANT RAY LEWIS: One year after being implicated in the stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis spent an hour deflecting questions that weren't about football. "That chapter is closed," he declared on a warm day in Tampa. But Lewis did manage to express his frustration at prosecutors and the NFL. "It was never about those two kids lying dead in the street," he said. "It was about Ray Lewis, and that's not right." Lewis was initially charged in the murders, then cleared several weeks later. In a plea deal, he admitted to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and testified against his two former co-defendants. Both were acquitted.
BETTER WATCH WHAT YOU SAY, 2013: Every player is warned not to say anything on media day that will get them in trouble. San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver failed to heed that advice during a one-on-one interview with Artie Lange. The comedian asked Culliver whether he would consider pursuing a gay man. "I don't do the gay guys," Culliver replied. "Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff." Two days later, Culliver spent his time with the media apologizing profusely.
GROUNDBREAKING QUARTERBACK, 1988: Washington's Doug Williams became the first black to start at quarterback in the Super Bowl, which prompted some awkward moments and a lasting urban legend from his session with reporters in San Diego. To this day, people will tell you that someone asked, "How long had you been a black quarterback." Actually, the query was along the lines, "It's obvious you've always been a black quarterback all your life. When did it start to matter?" Williams was reluctant to get into the issue that week, though he certainly understood the significance of the moment. "It's going to be the same if a black coach brings a team to the Super Bowl. It's going to be the same hype. It's always going to be there."
LEON'S DAY OF DREAD, 1994: Leon Lett, a soft-spoken defensive lineman, had not commented to reporters since a Thanksgiving Day blunder led to a Dallas Cowboys loss. He couldn't escape media day in Atlanta — and it was downright painful to watch. "I can't breathe," Lett exclaimed, sweating profusely, before he bolted from his seat just 11 minutes into his session. The NFL ordered Lett to return. Now looking more like a condemned man, he spoke in hushed tones, wringing his hands around a towel, never taking his eye off the clock. "Is that it? Can I go now?" Finally, the session came to a merciful end. No one has ever been more relieved NOT to have to talk anymore.
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