Callie Caplan at the Super Bowl
Having the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl was such a valuable learning experience as I pursue a career covering football after graduation. I went into the week with about seven storylines I wanted to cover, most with local angles to appeal to the Capital News Service audience, and I finished most of the initial interviews during Opening Night the Monday before the game.
That media session was definitely the most overwhelming because so many outlets are fighting for access in the one hour each team is available. There was a cameraman dressed as a princess, Cooper Manning — Eli and Peyton’s brother — was walking around in a money-patterned suit and the Jimmy Kimmel crew show was filming a segment with funny questions for the players. Plus, so many networks had sets and cameras up for live broadcasts. Navigating that was difficult — it took me about 20 minutes to find some of the reserve players I wanted to write about — but all of the interviews gave me a solid base to build my stories on for the rest of the week.
The next three days, the teams had availability at their hotels, so I took the media bus to those and had the chance for follow-up questions to fill out my stories. I also got to do social media for CNS with Snapchat and taking pictures on Twitter. Most days, the Falcons had their sessions early in the morning and the Patriots in the late afternoon. In between, there were other press conferences at the main media center with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the game’s performers — Luke Bryan and Lady Gaga.
The teams didn’t have availability Friday or Saturday, so I finished my stories and had time to network with other journalists, too. I spent Friday with Christine Brennan at a fan forum with Goodell and the three Walter Payton Man of the Year finalists and watched her report a column from the fans’ experiences. She also introduced me to her friends in the industry as we walked back to the media center and gave me advice during lunch about my future and work at The Diamondback, which was really valuable as I finish out my last semester. She also set up a happy hour for Association of Women in Sports Media members, so it was nice to meet the other women who were covering the week for USA Today and build more connections in the organization.
I figured there was no way the game could be as amazing as the week had already been, but I was wrong. By the middle of the third quarter, I had written an entire story about the Falcons winning their first-ever Super Bowl and just needed to plug in quotes at the end. But I can’t be upset that I had to scrap the idea and write three other versions by the game’s end because the atmosphere and history of the fourth quarter and overtime is something I’ll probably never get to witness again.
It was the perfect way to cap a perfect week, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Povich Center, CNS and Merrill College. I’ve learned in my three-plus years at Merrill the importance of taking the skills and topics we talk about in classes and putting them into action in outside endeavors, and to have the chance to do that at one of the biggest sporting events in the world — one I’ve always wanted to attend — was unbelievable. The week gave me so much confidence and empowered me to ensure this was my first Super Bowl, but not my last.