Singer Tom Petty and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning converse on the set of NFL Network's Super Bowl coverage on Radio Row.
PHOENIX –At the bottom of the Phoenix Convention Center sits the Super Bowl's Radio Row, an intricate maze of television and radio sets erected for sports personalities like ESPN's Jim Rome and the NFL Network's Rich Eisen.
In fact, Eisen and his crew dominate the floor with a full studio that anchors their 24-hour coverage of the events leading up to Sunday's game. At any given hour, an all-star cast of football and entertainment celebrities mingle offstage. On Thursday, Eisen hosted Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and musician Tom Petty for an afternoon spot.
Random, maybe. But that's the thing about the Super Bowl's media center – it brings together vastly different worlds in the name of one game.
This year, 223 countries are represented on Radio Row and the NFL has issued a record-number 4,786 media credentials. The juxtaposition of so many competing outlets has produced very creative coverage.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and tennis player James Blake squared off in a ping pong match. Brees used to be an ace tennis player and beat Andy Roddick as a junior. Since Blake has beaten Roddick, the media wanted to see if Brees could get the best of another American pro on the court.
Jared, the Subway spokesman, visited with the Sirius Radio jockeys before they hosted San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who will be the featured act in the halftime show, used their press conference Thursday to announce an upcoming summer tour.
Petty would not divulge who he would be rooting for during the game, but did say what he thought about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick playing Petty's music for the team.
"I don't think I've ever kept anyone from winning," Petty said.
Earlier that morning, GMC held a conference to award Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders with GMC Sierra Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Sanders led the Colts' secondary with 96 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six defensed passes, one fumble recovered and two interceptions. When asked if he thought his play overshadowed that of his quarterback, Manning, Sanders responded:
"Come on. You know who my quarterback is."
The safety was one of five finalists selected for the award. Joining him were Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney, Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel and Texans defensive end Mario Williams.
Williams was en route to the event via plane, but bad weather delayed his arrival. The defensive end finally landed in Phoenix five hours later than scheduled. He said at least he will be on-time for the NFL Alumni reception, honoring him as the defensive lineman of the year Friday.
Two other Texans have been making Super Bowl headlines: guard Chester Pitts and left tackle Ephraim Salaam.
Salaam beat out 240 players in the league who submitted videos for a contest for the best NFL story to be used in a Super Bowl commercial. In the commercial, Salaam recounts how he inspired Pitts to start playing football in college.
The commercial will be shown between the third and fourth quarters. Salaam and Pitts will not make the trip to Glendale and plan to watch the ad together on a high definition television.
Noteworthy: New York Giants center Grey Ruegamer played at Arizona State with Pat Tillman, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2004. Ruegamer took time this week to visit the Pat Tillman Memorial Statue at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
"It was nice for them to do it," Ruegamer said. "He needs to be memorialized. You take things for granted, and Pat symbolized a lot of things.
"Pat was funny. If he thought you were wrong, he would tell you. If he thought you were full of crap, he'd say you were full of crap. And he'd tell you why – he'd explain it very thoroughly, and you usually would end up agreeing with him."