TAMPA—Larry Fitzgerald is my new hero.
No, not that Larry Fitzgerald sitting up on the dais being interviewed by what appears to be a transvestite hooker in a red dress and a feather boa. Not the Larry Fitzgerald who is the center of attention, the one with famously flowing dreadlocks, a matinee-idol smile and a sculpted body that comes straight out of Men's Fitness magazine.
Super Bowl Media Day. This Larry Fitzgerald took the shuttle over with the rest of us sportswriting hacks. His gut hangs over his belt from too many pressbox wieners. He carries his notebook and tape recorder in a free satchel he got at some event he covered long ago.
"Just trying to get a story," says Larry Fitzgerald Sr, a sportswriter for the Minnesota Spokeman-Recorder.
That shouldn't be too hard considering his son is Larry Fitzgerald Jr. — the most dynamic player in Super Bowl XLIII. You heard me, all you scribe bashers. And if you didn't let me clarify it even further: A sportswriter, a sportswriter whose wife died six years ago, helped raise the biggest star in the biggest sporting event in the nation.
Can you imagine — being a member of the media on Super Bowl Media Day and your assignment is to cover your son? Now you know how Mel Kiper Sr. must have felt the first time he saw his son on ESPN breaking down Akili Smith's throwing motion.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of my son," Larry Sr. says.
Proud doesn't begin to describe it. Don't get me wrong, we all try to take pride in the activities and accomplishments of our children, but let's be honest, shall we? Any sportswriter worth his weight in unmatched socks and bounced alimony checks dreams of his kid someday playing in the Super Bowl.
Give Larry Sr. credit because he tries to play the role of ethical journalist and says he will abide by the first commandment of sportswriting: "Thou Shalt Not Cheer in the Pressbox." But, come on, who would blame him if his son catches the winning touchdown pass and he high-steps through the pressbox waving his reporter's notebook like a pompom? Who would blame him if his son is the MVP, and the lead to his Super Bowl story is, "Larry Fitzgerald Jr. singlehandedly led the Arizona Cardinals to the biggest upset since English galleons shocked the Spanish Armada."?
"Sometimes, I wish my dad would cheer for me, but he's always up working in some pressbox," Larry Jr. said.
In fact, Larry Sr. has worked 28 straight Super Bowls and covered some of the greatest personalities in sports. He was there when Jim McMahon mooned a helicopter, when Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunctioned, when Terrell Owens claimed God himself worked a miracle and "cleared" T.O. to play.
Which is why he has instructed his son not to draw attention to himself, not to give the media any bulletin-board material, not to say anything colorful or controversial.
"I tried to teach him when you win you say little, when you lose you say less," Larry Sr. says and smiles.
And then he politely tries to break up the impromptu interview session with a bunch of fellow scribes. He doesn't want to break the second commandment: "Thou Shalt Never Become the Story."
"This isn't about me," he says. "It's about my son. Dad's getting too much attention."
With that, he unzips his satchel, takes out a tape recorder and begins the process of gathering notes, quotes and anecdotes for his own readers back home.
Super Bowl Media Day for Super Bowl Media Dad.
"A dream come true," he says.