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By Wednesday of Super Bowl week, aka adult spring break, most people have realized that nothing is actually going to happen during Super Bowl week. That is, there are no real stories. So there’s a frantic attempt to make stories happen, twist words, take half sentences and turn them into tremendous slights. This is how the entire Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan “feud” happened for half a day.
We had to have something to talk and write about.
So the Strahan-Sapp feud happened.
Next year I think I should stage a fight with Andy Roddick in the center of radio row.
Anyway, by Wednesday all people really want to do is go to the parties.
Getting into the best party you can possibly get into becomes the primary goal of Super Bowl week.
It’s all people talk about — what are the plans for later that night? What parties are happening? Do you have a hook-up?
For the first several years I went to Super Bowl week, I couldn’t get into any real parties. So I just went to regular bars and drank there. Now that I’m employed by Fox and Fox was airing the Super Bowl, everyone assumed that I could get into any party and, what’s more, that I could get them into any party too.
Even though, as has been well established, my name never appears on any party list.
I’m still pretty much worthless.
Which bring us to the first big party of Super Bowl week, Jay Glazer’s party.
1. I spend Wednesday morning researching the top uncommited four and five star recruits.
And by “Wednesday morning” I mean, starting at around ten in the morning when TexAgs radio wakes me up for my Wednesday morning hit on their radio station.
By the time I’m finished writing this piece and eating my free sandwich lunch — Score! — it’s time to head over to radio row.
2. The rest of the 104.5 the Zone gang has arrived in New York City and we’re broadcasting live from radio row for the next three days.
We’re now occupying our tiny table — replete with tons of equipment to allow us to broadcast. (I’ll get to this in a moment).
We’ll be broadcasting from 4-7 eastern and it’s starting to get wild on radio row. By that, I mean that there are actual guests.
On Wednesday our first guest is Mike Ditka.
Mike Ditka is advertising something called “The Brain Bar,” which he claims will help make your brain stronger.
It’s a chocolate bar.
I take a bite of the chocolate bar. It tastes like a chocolate bar.
Ditka is appearing with a doctor, who he also insists that you interview, who attests that the brain bar is good for your brain. Ditka actually says it’s important to eat the brain bar because NFL concussions are serious business. Serious business that can, evidently, be combated by the right kind of chocolate bar.
Here’s a prediction, the FDA is probably not going to approve of this marketing strategy.
This is a big part of the Super Bowl, most of the people who are willing to do interviews are only there to pump a product they’re being paid to pump. AJ McCarron is there with Axe Body Wash, Archie Manning for Papa John’s, Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner for their new movie, every celebrity on radio row is selling something.
They agree to come on your show if you help them sell their product.
It’s free advertising for them, free content for you.
3. And it’s incredibly effective because radio row is like the final twenty minutes at a spring break bar all day long every day.
Because there are comparatively few good guests and everyone is doing whatever they can to get them onto their station. The PR people in charge of the radio guests — like much less attractive wing men — are doing their best to make sense of the radio bedlam. There are people pawing at them like crazy. They can’t possibly put their guests on hundreds of stations, but they want to put their guests on in as many cities as possible.
Only on the chaos of radio row — it’s closing time at the bar all day for seven straight days — how do they decide which stations to do?
Well, most pr people use the city as proxy for how many people are listening to the station. Even though, you guessed it, just because you’re on in a big city doesn’t mean that anyone is actually listening to your show. In fact, many of the biggest cities have multiple stations. The hidden secret of radio is that most people doing radio don’t have much of an audience. (This is actually the hidden secret of all sports media, most people are writing or talking to a tiny audience).
Using cities as a proxy for listenership is a tremendous pet-peeve of mine because often the pr people do a poor job of booking. Even when I do the research for them and can actually give them the 25 most listened to sports stations in the country, they still pick cities over stations.
Several radio stations have gotten smart and brought in attractive women to grab guests. This works on both the guests and the pr people. It’s a strategy I first saw deployed by my friend Lance Taylor and the Birmingham JOX crew six years ago at SEC Media Days. Lance brought in four hot college girls and they got any guest they wanted all week.
It’s genius because men — and 95% of the guests on radio row are men — will do whatever they can to make attractive women happy. Including going on radio stations they otherwise wouldn’t go on. We got Jessie Jackson on Friday entirely because Peter Burns from Denver brought in a blonde smokeshow and Jessie Jackson, who met her five minutes beforehand, went anywhere she told him to go.
So you know that sleazy feeling you have at the end of the night at the bar? That’s the vibe of radio row. Only with microphones and sweaty men and all day the entire time you’re there.
4. There’s also no food on radio row.
This is why I was eating Mike Ditka’s brain bar.
You’re always hungry on radio row.
It’s just like spring break, back when you didn’t have much money and the money you did have you were spending on alcohol.
Plus, lots of times radio row is inaccessible to easily procured food. Why? Because usually it’s in a convention center, which is like the worst place in America to be hungry. There’s no food at convention centers. Or, worst of all, even close to convention centers. So you’re perpetually hungry and thirsty on radio row.
Except, that is, for the moment every week when Papa John — really, Papa John himself — shows up with tons of free pizza. This is the greatest moment on radio row, akin to walking into a spring break party and finding unlimited booze for free.
As a result, you find yourself eating weird stuff on radio row. This year the free food is “Gatorade health bars” — presumably they’re also good for the brain, Gatorade — because what’s healthier than a bunch of fat men who aren’t exercising drinking an exercise drink?– and bacon-flavored seeds.
At one point I found myself eating a Gatorade bar, drinking Gatorade, and spitting bacon-flavored seeds out into a plastic bag that was supposed to be holding cords for our radio hook-up.
5. Speaking of the radio hook-ups, they’re incredibly tenuous.
During our Wednesday show an old man sits down at the table next to ours and starts kicking the cord underneath the table.
I don’t know why.
But in doing so he knocks us off the air twice.
Seriously, that’s all it takes to knock us off the air on radio row, an old man kicking things under the table. My co-host, Brent, goes over and tells him to please not kick the table and he says, “I didn’t kick the table,” and Brent says, “I SAW YOU KICK THE TABLE.”
This is probably the highlight for Wednesday because I start to wonder what would have happened if the old man had attacked Brent.
How many stations would have been knocked off the air by the two of them rolling around on the ground at radio row?
6. There are always a few giveaways on radio row and radio people will take anything free.
Sadly, though, the giveaways are never things you’d actually want.
This year the biggest freebie on radio row is Old Spice deodorant — inedible — but coming in many scented flavors.
At any given moment you’ll look up and see radio guys walking away from the Old Spice area with both arms outstretched and filled with a variety of deodorizing products. They look like they just robbed the deodorant bank.
7. We do the Wednesday radio show, and, not surprisingly, I’m starving when we finish.
Everyone else has plans for the evening so Chad Withrow, who has a prodigious drinking ability and hosts the mid-day show on our station, and I, walk to a deli where I buy dinner — a BBQ turkey burger and chips — while Withrow buys us a six pack of Bud Light. Then we both walk back to my hotel room and drink beers for the next 45 minutes.
When we finish, it’s time to leave for Jay Glazer’s party. (You must read the GQ profile here if you want to know what Glazer’s like. He’s a ridiculous and hysterical personality.)
I’m supposedly “on the list,” and I will sneak Withrow in by claiming that he’s one of my producers. (There are a billion producers at Fox so I figure no will ever know that we made up this story. Until now, when they all read about it here. Hi, guys).
I’m nervous about whether I’m actually on the list or not. Not just because my name never shows up on any lists, but because Jacob Ullman, the Fox executive I spent Tuesday night with, told me to email the pr girl in charge of Glazer’s party to let her know that I was coming and worked at Fox.
I sent the email the previous night at two in the morning.
It’s now around 9:30 and I’ve heard nothing from her all day.
Does this mean I’m on the list and don’t need to worry or that she ignored my email and I’m not on the list?
You’ve read the first two pieces of my Super Bowl experience, what do you think I thought?
8. Before we leave, I decide to change into a better shirt than the light blue thermal that I’m wearing.
As I’m standing with a white button down shirt in my hand, Withrow says, “I don’t think you should change. As a straight man, I think you look pretty good in that.”
“The blue thermal?”
“Yes, the blue thermal.”
He appears to be serious so I take his advice and don’t change. (But I do put on my new Old Spice deodorant).
Later that night I will receive a text from my wife, who has seen our picture on Facebook, “Are you wearing a thermal shirt under a suit jacket?” she asks. I text her back, “Yes, Withrow said it looked good.” Her response is immediate, “Withrow is lying to you.”
Welcome to marriage.
9. We hop in a cab and head to Piranna, which is a bar not named after the fish, but seems like it should be.
There’s already a line outside Piranna, so Withrow and I dutifully get in line. I’m terrified because there appears to be someone checking the list.
We get closer to the door whereupon, I try a move that I’ve used many times before, when a decent-sized group is being waved through in front of you, try to get in their wake and just get pulled inside with them. Don’t make eye contact and pretend that you belong with the group in front of you.
Immediately we head to the bar and start drinking. Everything appears to be free but we still want to tip. I always try and tip when the server can see that I’m tipping. On our first two drinks I mistime my tip, so the guy has no idea I’m tipping. What do you guys do in this situation, do you pick the money back up and re-put it back down — risking that he thinks you’re fake tipping, or, worse, stealing — or do you just let him think you’re an asshole?
I go with asshole. Unless I’m in my city where I assume he listens to the radio show, then I re-put it back down so he can’t accuse me of being an asshole for not tipping.
Anyway, we stand around and drink until we get tired of standing.
10. Withrow sees a long couch with no one really sitting near it.
There’s just one problem.
On the small table in front of the couch is a sign that says, “Reserved for Black Lifestyles Magazine.”
Withrow wants to sit down.
“I think they’re going to know we don’t work at “Black Lifestyles.”
“Ah, no one pays attention to that stuff,” Withrow says dismissively.
We sit down.
A few minutes later, a group walks by, “Is this your section?” one asks.
“Yes,” I say, “we’re with Black Lifestyles.”
Before we can be kicked out of our seats, Jay Glazer arrives at the Jay Glazer party to much fanfare.
11. Glazer’s party has three levels of attendance.
There’s the regular attendees, the blue wristband, and the silver wristband.
I have no wristband, but that shouldn’t matter because Glazer instructs the bouncer to let all the Fox people upstairs. After going upstairs to his private balcony area — Glazer’s like the Pope waving down at the Vatican — he comes back downstairs and starts to usher up all the Fox employees. He’s pointing at ten or fifteen of us and the massive bouncer in charge of the staircase sees him pointing at you and lets you come up.
That works for about fifteen people, until it’s my turn.
Glazer has already turned and gone back upstairs.
I’m directly behind all the Fox people — alongside my trusty producer Chad Withrow — when suddenly the huge bouncer — he looks like Michael Clarke Duncan in “The Green Mile,” — stops me and says, “You can’t go up.”
“But Jay just pointed at me, I work at Fox.”
“Not you. You go to the back staircase.”
“Yeah, the back.”
“But I work at Fox.”
“No, you don’t,” says the bouncer, who suddenly looks like he wants to pick me up and twirl me over his head and throw me as far as he can.
Which is probably a long way.
Far enough even, to where I’ll hit Giants punter Steve Weatherford, who has shown up in a smedium mink coat.
So we go to the back staircase. Where you can’t get upstair unless you have a blue wristband. At this point, a girl, seeing us shot down to go upstairs, rips her blue wristband off and hands it to Withrow. “Use mine,” she gallantly says. So now Withrow, my erstwhile Fox producer, heads upstairs and leaves me downstairs where who should emerge but Seton O’Connor and Andrew Perloff of the Dan Patrick Show. We immediately — and this is like the most Super Bowl media of Super Bowl media conversations — start discussing how to monetize podcasts.
After about ten minutes — the Dannettes have to leave for their early morning show — I head to the bathroom and run into Charissa Thompson, who is now at Glazer’s party. She wants me to take her picture next to Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers football player who was paralyzed and is hanging out at Piranna tonight. So I take Charissa’s picture, but it’s very fuzzy and Charissa looks at the picture sand says, “Nice picture, asshole,” and I don’t see her again for the rest of Super Bowl weekend.
(Charissa is actually awesome, but I feel like this is the perfect cameo for her in my Super Bowl weekend. We actually saw each other as Withrow and I left for Glazer’s party and Charissa was just arriving in New York. I should add this since it was in the podcast and it’s already public now. The first time I met Charissa was at the Fox Sports preseason party in July. Right before FS1 launched. Everyone is out drinking at this LA resort where we’re also staying and I go back to my hotel room and climb into bed. It’s like two in the morning and I’m pretty drunk. Sometime later, the door to my room opens and I hear Charissa and her boyfriend talking. Or at least I think I do. But my bedroom has a long hallway and I can’t actually see them. And Charissa’s like, “Why is there a bag in our hallway?” And I’m laying there in my boxers thinking, “Charissa Thompson just walked into my bedroom with her boyfriend, is this real life? What am I supposed to do? What if they start making out? What should I do? What’s the least weird way to tell someone that they’re in your hotel room?” So I decide to get out of bed and I walk around the corner in my boxer briefs and I’m like, “Hey, guys, this is my room,” and they’re both stunned because you don’t expect to see a bearded stranger in his underwear in your hotel room. So, anyway, Charissa didn’t remember her actual room number and thought she was in my room and they gave her the key at the front desk. So the moral to this story is, if you’re a hot blonde and you say you’re in a particular room at a hotel, they just give you that hotel room key instead of checking to see if someone else is staying there first).
Meanwhile, Withrow has returned from the promised land and found another girl to rip off her blue wristband so we can both go upstairs to the land of milk, honey, and Jay Glazer.
Only, it’s packed upstairs, we can’t move, and we still don’t have a silver wristband so I can’t even see anyone we know from Fox. Plus, I’m still afraid that the bouncer at the other staircase wants to kill me.
12. So we head back to the Essex House bar, figuring we can drink there until last call.
There’s like eleven people in the Essex House bar. Three Irish tourists, a hooker — at least I’m pretty sure she was a hooker — and her potential mate, who was NOT employed by Fox, several Fox executives, Curt Menefee and his wife, Erin Andrews, and my Fox College Saturday producer Bardia, who is a pretty funny guy.
Withrow and I join the Fox crew and we’re having a good time until Withrow decides to butt in with a borderline inappropriate story and Erin Andrews turns to him and says, “I’m sorry, but who the f— are you?”
Which just brings down the house. (Erin can be really funny when she wants to. And she just crushes people and they never see it coming.). For the past week whenever he says something, I’ve been saying, “I’m sorry, but who the f— are you?” to Withrow.
Withrow has no idea how to respond to Erin so he just stands blank-faced gulping air. Now he’s like George on “Seinfeld,” trying to think of appropriate responses for the past week. If he ever sees Erin again he’s going to be like Costanza with the jerk store line. And she’ll still have no idea who he is.
And that’s pretty much the final line of Wednesday at Super Bowl spring break.
It’s after two in the morning and Withrow hops in a cab, where he subsequently leaves his bag with his iPad and all of his chargers in it because he’s had too much to drink and is focused on getting a pizza.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to pack and check out of the hotel in the morning because my wife is coming into town and we’re moving into the Bud Light Hotel, a cruise ship that has just pulled into port.