When Super Bowl Opening Night (previously known as Super Bowl Media Day) kicks off at 8 p.m. in San Jose, unfortunately I won’t be among the hundreds of reporters there. My boss told me that it had something to do with the team I cover not being involved. So here we are, blogging from a basement in Ashburn, Va., about the five questions I would ask tonight at SAP Center if, you know, my boss had sent me:
- I’d ask Peyton Manning how much Sunday’s outcome will influence his plans for next season. He probably won’t say much; he’s already sidestepped the subject like a blitzing linebacker in recent days. But he’s got to say something—and you can be sure whatever he says will be among the top stories in sports sections and newscasts across the country.
- I’d also ask Manning what he and his teammates learned from their shocking loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. If you recall, Manning and the center had a miscommunication on a shotgun snap and the Seahawks seized a 2-0 lead just 12 seconds in. Seattle never looked back, cruising to a 43-8 victory. Will they approach game week any differently this time around? Can they do a better job of tuning out the hype and dialing in on their preparation? Because on Super Bowl Sunday two years ago, the Broncos looked anything by focused and prepared.
- And before I left Manning’s podium, I'd try to squeeze in one more: I would ask him how much thought he's given to what’s next. He turns 40 in March, so the finish line is in sight, even if he’s not ready to acknowledge it. Whenever he does hang up the cleats, he’ll have opportunities in coaching, management, ownership and broadcasting, among other things. I personally think he’d be an outstanding color commentator, given his wit and extensive knowledge of the game. I'm curious to see what he does in the next phase of his life, and I'm sure others are, as well.
- I’d ask Cam Newton how he’s come to be one of the most polarizing figure in sports today. I wouldn’t mention his recent comments about race. Or his much-criticized end zone celebrations. I’d let him steer the answer in any direction he decided. Someone’s going to ask that (or something similar) tonight, and I bet the answer will be an interesting one.
- One storyline that absolutely fascinates me is the tale of Demaryius Thomas and his mom, Katina, who was locked up on drug trafficking charges when Demaryius was just 11. Last month, she watched her now 28-year-old son play (at any level) for the first time against the Steelers. I presume she’ll attend the Super Bowl, too. I’d ask Demaryius about making up for lost time with Katina, and what she thinks of him growing up to be a wealthy star athlete while she did hard time.