Being a journalist at a major sporting event can seem glamorous — Utah is getting its taste of that experience this week with the NBA All-Star Game.

And yes, there are plenty of opportunities that create lasting and enjoyable memories from covering these events — both at the game and in the week leading up to it.

The reality is, too, that it can be exhausting work.

I had that opportunity again last week, when this year’s Super Bowl was held in Arizona — it was my fourth time going to a Super Bowl, and like previous years, it left me with plenty of fond memories and plenty of jet lag when I got back to Utah.

(That’s the real reason it’s taken me five days to write this article).

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What do these festivities look like behind doors not accessible to the everyday fan? Here’s what I experienced for this year’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Opening Night and a busy schedule — and then a quick rest

For many journalists, the Super Bowl week begins in earnest with what is now known as Opening Night — the televised, ticketed event on Monday night where reporters have access to talk with every coach and player for both teams. 

It’s almost like a party with fans, players and reporters to kick off the week, but with plenty of interviews and entertainment.

This year, there were five practice squad members between the two teams with Utah ties, and that was the lone day I could talk with them. I ended up tracking down three, though it was a bit chaotic trying to find players in the Phoenix Sun’s Footprint Center, which hosted the event.

There was a long line for Brian Johnson, the former Utah quarterback and assistant who is now the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, and I wasn’t able to find former Utah and Timpview High star Britain Covey on the main floor after seeing him on the elevated stage at the center of the event.

Opening Night also gives you the first opportunity of the week to work alongside some of the biggest names in the NFL media world. I saw guys like ESPN’s Adam Schefter, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, just to name a few.

Social media influencer Annie Agar, known for her hilarious NFL takes, was also there. 

Following Opening Night, things quieted down a bit, at least in the public eye, though I kept busy. For the next three days, both teams hosted media availability events, allowing for interviews with coaches and players alike.

That gave me the chance to sit down for a long interview with Covey, now with the Eagles, and talk with Utah ties on a variety of subjects prior to this year’s Super Bowl. 

From Tuesday through Friday, I worked at either the media center at the Phoenix Convention Center or my hotel room — just depending on how the schedule dictated.

I should also mention, as a media member in a market with no NFL team, I had to wait until 12 days before the game to find out if we would have a credential, as our request was contingent upon certain NFL teams making the Super Bowl (i.e., teams with enough interesting Utah connections we’d want to cover).

That’s been par for the course for every Super Bowl I have covered, but it can make it a challenge to find hotel and travel accommodations that aren’t unreasonably expensive that close to Super Bowl week — and this year, Phoenix was also hosting the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open the same weekend.

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Fortunately, the NFL provided a reasonable rate at a hotel less than 15 minutes away from downtown Phoenix, and with Lyft rides into and out of downtown, everything was managed well enough.

By Friday evening, though, I was ready for a little relaxation time — for a day. Really, it was food, (a little) rest and especially FaceTime calls with my wife each night that got me through the week.

What game day is like

After picking up my game day credential on Saturday, I prepped for Sunday’s game by relaxing back at the hotel — and finding food. 

To get to the stadium on game day, I traveled back downtown to jump on a media shuttle Sunday morning.

Even then, one of the volunteers directed me (and a few other media members) to one of the tailgate shuttles. After a few minutes, I realized this wasn’t the right bus and got off — the alcohol a few folks were drinking and people in team gear were kind of a dead giveaway — then found my way to the right shuttle.

The drive over to the stadium wasn’t bad until the end, when curiously our driver got off the stop before the stadium and tried going up one of the side roads to State Farm Stadium. It took us almost a half-hour in heavy traffic to get to the stadium, when we could easily see it within our sights.

Getting through security was soooooooooo much easier — I found a line with no one else in it, and within a couple minutes, I followed a series of signs to get to the media entrance and inside the stadium with about 312 hours until kickoff.

The past two Super Bowls, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a spot in the press box — the first two times I covered the Super Bowl, I was assigned to the Auxiliary Press area, which essentially means you have a seat with a temporary table top in a designated area in the stands.

Being in the press box has its advantages — there are nearby restrooms, a quieter place to work, and the ability to watch TV monitors to watch the game’s broadcast.

And the food is better — I’ll get to that in a minute.

The game itself, once you get past the extensive pregame festivities and the much-hyped halftime show (I maybe watched 30 seconds, but that’s pretty typical for me at the Super Bowl), it really just feels like any other game for much of the night.

By the end, of course, it dawns on you what exactly is at stake, especially when it’s a close game like this year’s Super Bowl was.

A view from the press box during Super Bowl 57, when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. | Brandon Judd, Deseret News

The postgame madness

While fans at home see all the confetti flying, the Lombardi Trophy presentation and players and coaches being interviewed in the immediate aftermath of the game, reporters who don’t have on-field access — as far as I understand, that’s mostly limited to video crews and TV stations — their postgame view comes inside the service level of the stadium.

This year, getting from the press box to the interview room on the service level required walking through the loft area. On the way down to interviews, I walked past DJ Khaled (and no, I didn’t geek out).

I had intended on catching up with Covey in the locker room — only a select group of reporters had access to the locker room this year, and I was supposed to have that kind of access.

It would have been interesting to talk with him about his 27-yard punt return in the game — which tied a season-high for the rookie — and what his plans are for him and wife Leah as they prepare for the birth of their first child, a boy, in March.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Britain Covey (18) before the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. | Doug Benc, Associated Press

When I arrived at the service level and headed towards the locker rooms, however, there was some confusion among the security on hand regarding when reporters could enter the locker room to conduct interviews. 

After waiting several minutes with other reporters gathered together behind a barrier while we waited for the go-ahead, it soon became clear that getting access to the locker room could be a much longer wait than anticipated. 

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I had to make a choice — stick it out for the possibility of talking with Covey (if he hadn’t already made a quick exit out of the locker room postgame), or ensure I get a good seat for Andy Reid’s press conference after the Chiefs’ 38-35 win.

In the end, I went with the sure bet, going to Reid’s press conference — which made sense, considering his BYU ties. Even then, it took Reid and Patrick Mahomes (who had his press conference in the same room) a good 45-50 minutes after the game ended to show up.

Such is the life when they have so many media obligations after a game of this magnitude.

What about the food?

On both Opening Night and at the Super Bowl, the NFL delivered some excellent food. The main course was the same, and we had a Mexican-style spread of tortillas, chips, beans and meats to dine on.

There were also boxed sandwich lunches for all the early-goers at the stadium on game day, and desserts served right around the end of the first quarter.

If you went hungry, it was your own fault — and that was better than the first Super Bowl I covered, when I had to scoop up a couple hot dogs in a dark spot underneath the stands while Katy Perry’s halftime show was going on back in the 2014 season.

The last time I covered a Super Bowl in Phoenix, the NFL provided meals at the Media Center during the week, but that didn’t happen this time — there were just complimentary snacks and drinks much of the time.

That forced me to find food on my own during the week, and basically, I ate at restaurants within a quarter-mile of my hotel, which was just a 12-minute walk from Arizona State’s campus — but there was no way my out-of-shape self was walking all the way over there to find food. 

Plus, my hotel had a nice continental breakfast spread each morning, and I used that to my advantage — often taking second or third helpings to give me the energy I needed to get me through the day.

I’m pretty sure I ate about 50 of the hotel cinnamon rolls.

Some of the things that didn’t make it into stories

Despite writing nearly 20 stories during my time in Phoenix, there were inevitably a couple stories I never put a headline on.

They included:

  • What kind of bonus Covey, as an active roster member, would receive in his take of the player shares from Philadelphia’s playoff run — it amounted to $239,000, according to Spotrac. Not a bad extra chunk of change for a guy about to become a father.
  • On Opening Night, I asked Matt Bushman (the former BYU tight end) and Noah Togiai (of Hunter High) to walk me through what being a practice squad member is like. “Our job is basically to make sure they’re ready to play — we do everything they do besides play in the game. We’re in every meeting, every lift, every practice, everything,” Togiai said. 
  • Johnson also told me that Covey “does a mean Griddy. He does the Mike Gesicki Griddy. If you get the opportunity to interview him, it will be quite entertaining.” Covey laughed when I asked him to verify that, then said, “By ‘mean,’ he probably means ridiculous. It’s kind of a trademark, you do an uncoordinated Griddy.”