INDIANAPOLIS — When you’re around baseball for a long time as a reporter, you buy into the notion that it’s America’s pastime. You see the passion of fans up close, especially in places like Boston and New York.
But when you’re around the Super Bowl for one day, you realize the power of the NFL.
The game is not until Sunday. But there were more media people here today than I’ve ever seen at any World Series game. The press work room at the J.W. Marriott is enormous and the league literally has a fleet of buses to bring reporters from place to place.
Baseball suddenly feels sort of quaint. Bud Selig is running the corner market and Roger Godell has the Super Wal-Mart.
Anyway, the Patriots practiced today and then Bill Belichick came over for a press conference along with a few players. My job was to go listen to what Vince Wilfork had to say.
I had a few questions to ask, but the first one was interrupted by a Japanese guy who said he had “a big award” to give to the player of the game.
“What can we expect from you?” he said to Wilfork. “Do you want the prize?”
Wilfork, to his credit, smiled and gave the guy a respectful answer. He was prepared for stuff like that.
Belichick retold the old story about challenging Wilfolk to catch a punt during training camp in his rookie season and being surprised when the big defensive tackle easily made the play.
Wilfork laughed when recalled his catch and playfully boasted about his athletic ability.
“I think I can throw the ball better than Tom [Brady],” he said. “And Tom thinks he can beat me in the 40. Trust me, we have a lot of fun. … I’ve had a chance to throw the ball in practice and I’m pretty good.”
According to Wilfork, he “probably played every position on the field” at Santaluces Community High School in Lantana, Fla.
He liked them all, too, except running back and center.
“Center, I went down there and first play the dude hit me right in my head and knocked me down. I said, ‘That was it.’ I can’t hike the ball and try and hit somebody,” Wilfork said. “Then running back, I got back there and ran the ball and fell backwards. Some dude, probably 5-4 and 120 pounds, hit me so hard I dropped the ball and everything.
“I never ran the ball again. You don’t have to worry about me asking to be a running back.”
The other funny moment was when a reporter from Germany excitedly told Belichick that the whole country was rooting for the Pats because of Sebastian Vollmer.
“That’s great,” Belichick said.
Even the irascible coach smiled and rode the wave. It’s Super Bowl week, that’s all you can do.