by Tannen Maury
“It never rains like this in Phoenix!” This is what the epa team heard over and over during the week leading up to The Big Game, aka Super Bowl XLIX, in normally dry Phoenix, Arizona. Unfortunately for those of us who traveled from areas in the midst of winter’s grip looking forward to some bright sunshine and warm temperatures, this was not the case as it was cloudy, cool, and raining most of the week.
The early arrival team of Andrew Gombert, Larry Smith, and Tannen Maury landed on Sunday, 25 January to begin preparations for what has become much more than an American football game. There were credentials to be retrieved, communications networks to be checked, editing spaces to be arranged, logistics meetings and news conferences to attend. The remainder of the epa team, photographer Erik Lesser and editors Shawn Thew and C.J. Gunther arrived on Friday, 30 January. They were joined by Phoenix stringer Roy Dabner.
The Tuesday before the game is traditionally the day held for media to get close and personal with players and an opportunity for fans to see and hear their heroes. This year’s Media Day event was held in the downtown Phoenix US Airways Center where the NBA Phoenix Suns hold their basketball games. Holding a football sized event in a basketball arena meant compression…. squeezing into tight spaces thousands of reporters, photographers, television personalities elbowing for positions and access, not to mention members of the teams who faced hefty fines if they failed to appear. One player in particular noted for his testy relationship with the media went so far as to state 29 times that the only reason he was in attendance was to avoid the fine.
The other highly anticipated pre-week activity was the Super Bowl XLIX Half-time news conference featuring US singer Katy Perry. She arrived on stage wearing a football outfit complete with football earrings. She made remarks, answered questions and tossed a football into the crowd of journalists.
The teams who made it through the playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, each finished their regular seasons with records of 12 wins and four losses so we knew the game would be exciting….. And it was, ending on a last minute pass thrown by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson that was intercepted near the goal line by Patriots Malcolm Butler to stop the Seahawks scoring drive and give the Patriots as 28 – 24 win. epa staff photographer Larry Smith captured the moment and has been rewarded with many large displays of his image on newspaper front pages.
Equally rewarding for the epa team is the number of hits in publications from the spectacular half-time show. Katy Perry arrived riding on a huge mechanical tiger complete with glowing eyes. She made several wardrobe changes as she sang her way through her routine.
All in all it was a great effort by a dedicated team who met the challenge.