I have been fortunate to receive some dream assignments through the years.
My current one was once an actual dream.
I don’t watch as much football as I did when I was a kid. To be fair, nobody watches as much football as I did when I was a kid. I loved the NFL, and — growing up in New Jersey — I particularly loved the New York Jets.
In fact, one of my first journalistic exploits came when, in seventh grade, I started a weekly newsletter called The Jet Weekly. I even convinced my friends to write regular columns.
My football infatuation didn’t stop there. In high school I wrote full-length magazines previewing the upcoming NFL seasons. I turned down the volume before Jets games and did the play-by-play into a microphone (and recorded the audio on a cassette player). I simulated seasons from start to finish, and I never missed a game.
But as those years have grown more distant, so has my devotion to the NFL. In my career, I transitioned from a full-time sports guy to a full-time news guy (who, through some extraordinary assignments, gets to dip his toe into sports every so often). In my life, I went from a two-time fantasy football champ and NFL Red Zone devotee to someone who watches the occasional game. I no longer view the league through a lens of infallibility, and I often struggle to separate my enjoyment of the sport with the controversial baggage it carries.
I still, though, enjoy the game. And I particularly love the way a winning team — in any sport, including the NFL — brings together a city.
It’s happening right now in Atlanta. And it’s why I’m spending this week in Houston.
The Atlanta Falcons have upended the odds and made the Super Bowl, where they will take on Tom Brady and the favored New England Patriots. My station has sent a crew of eight people to Houston to cover the big game, and I am fortunate to be one of those eight. I drove out over the weekend, and today (Wed. 2/1) I begin my fourth full day of reporting from Houston.
What have I seen so far? Spectacle, spectacle, spectacle.
The NFL knows how to put on a show, and it stuffs as much as possible into seven days of festivities. We have seen a smattering of fans — mostly Houston natives at this point — taking in every last sight and sound. We have seen the athletes stay relatively levelheaded as they handle swarms of fans and media members. We have seen the city of Houston rise to the challenge of hosting such an outsize event.
I have even put together a few enjoyable pieces, mostly working with exceptionally talented photographer Jon Samuels.
I will try to post a few more entries from the Super Bowl experience, a la my Olympics coverage from six months ago. But I can honestly say I am covering an event of which I once dreamed. My dreams have since expanded in scope and scale, but I very much savor the chance to fulfill this one.