TAMPA — Okay, so let me get this straight …
The easiest way to describe Super Bowl media day is a circus, but that would be unfair — to the circus.
There were no clowns on the RayJay sideline Tuesday, except for the TV guy wearing makeup and a red backless dress and boa. There were no strongmen, but there were players (willingly) having their biceps measured by Mexican TV beauty Ines Sainz. There were no animals, except for the fox fur atop the head of the radio guy preaching samurai rituals. And there were no spotlighted rings, but there was a portable dance floor near the south end zone for Entertainment Tonight's version of Dancing With the Super Bowl Stars.
It's just crowded enough, just creepy enough and just crazy enough to have you thinking it's about as weird as it gets, and then you remember it's this way every year.
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Media day prep started early for Joel Bengoa, who an hour before the first cliche was spouted sat on a box in the corridors of RayJay having eye shadow and blush applied.
It takes time to turn a 33-year-old man into the Cardinals' fairy godmother.
"I'm trying to help them win because they are the underdogs," said Bengoa, an L.A.-based personality for Telemundo Sports.
Having slipped into something more, well, concerning, a slinky red dress that definitely revealed too much, he went about his "business" of becoming the spectacle of media day.
"They did more interviews with me than I did with the players," Bengoa said. "I thought there was going to be more crazy stuff."
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With Maria Menounos doing her cute and perky thing for Access Hollywood and Extra going the outrageous questions route (Hottest player? Have you ever worn any women's lingerie?), Entertainment Tonight found a way to step out.
They hired instructors Renee Sapp and Scott Montague from a Tampa Arthur Murray dance studio, brought in a small wood floor and an old-school boom box and created their own dance contest, complete with the scoring paddles from the hit TV show and a disco ball trophy, and dragged in a few players.
"The NFL has crossed over really huge with Dancing with the Stars; the players do really well in that competition," ET host Kevin Frazier said. "So we decided to come here and let the players do a little dancing. It breaks up the monotony of media day. … You can only talk about the game so much."
Defensive tackle Alan Branch won the Cardinals rumba competition, then became the first 344-pound man to utter this sentence: "Call me twinkle toes."
The Steelers salsa battle was a close call, with cornerback Bryant McFadden edging safety Tyrone Carter, and thanking "all the people" who helped him along the way.
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And, on a field laden with overweight middle-aged male sportswriters, it gets interviews.
Sainz, the Azteca TV host, probably could have done fine with a traditional approach, given her good looks and attention-grabbing outfit. But the 31-year-old went proactive, grabbing as many players as she could and seeing how they measured up — around the biceps.
Her unofficial winner? Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith, at 27 inches. "And," she said, "he's cute."
Mirella Grisales, a 30-year-old who works with Bengoa at Telemundo, was even less subtle, wearing high-heel sneakers, knee and elbow pads, short shorts and a smaller version of what might have once been a T-shirt.
The inscription read Dream Team, and her goal, she said, was to find hers. Also, "I want the players to tell me the best position … to play."
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Media day can be a stage for the pseudo celebrities, such as Menounos (who ditched the Tom Brady jersey this year but said she's friends with Matt Leinart), Ross the Intern from the Tonight Show (who sang the Aladdin theme, A Whole New World, to 300-pound Arizona lineman Reggie Wells, toted a pink football and made bad jokes about tight ends), and actor Jerry O'Connell and VH1er Doug Benson, among others.
It can also be for the kids. The Lakewood High Fox 13 Magazine crew was there. So were 11-year-old Tyler Smith, a fifth-grader at Tampa's Claywell Elementary chosen to work for Weekly Reader, and 10-year-old Shelby Fallin, a fifth-grader from Lakeland doing interviews for Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
Fallin asked some good questions, but she was stumped by one thrown at her: Would she be allowed to stay up to watch the end of Sunday's game? "I don't know," she said. "It's a school night."
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There's always an international flavor to media day, as reps from a record 28 countries were credentialed this year. That included Karim Mendiburu, another Telemundo host, getting players to sing with him in Spanish (La Sonora Dinamita); Thomas Knudsen and his crew from a Scandanavian TV network that spent all Monday flying from Copenhagen to New York to Tampa; and Carly Crawford, a reporter from News Limited Australia who was here to follow Arizona punter Ben Graham but was equally interested in news about Rays pitcher Grant Balfour.
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The best, and worst, part of media day (aside from Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed's hair) are the stupid questions.
Tuesday, there were plenty of "What's on your iPod?," "Favorite Super Bowl memories?," and "Which players are the biggest playas?"
One radio guy was asking about Canadian history. Menounos offered a pop culture quiz. The samurai radio guy — for reasons we don't want to know — kept asking, "Are you feeling me?"
As each team's one-hour session ended, the popular thing to do was ask about the worst thing they'd been asked.
"The stupidest question?" Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "Who's that funny-looking guy from the St. Petersburg Times?"