NEW ORLEANS -- A Super Bowl media credential is gold.
I mean, literally, it's gold -- with a purple border at the top and bottom. It was this flash of color that I saw while walking across the turf at the end of Tuesday's media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I looked down and there it was; someone had lost their credential. But just as I was bending down to collect it, the rightful owner appeared, still in a bit of a panic, and lifted it from the ground.
"Phew," he said. "That was a close one. Can't get into anything without this!"
Ain't that the truth. I looked down at my own credential and thought of all the places I had access to because of it: the side entrance to the NFL FanZone (the one closest to Starbucks); the media work center; the buses that shuttle us from one building to the next. Pretty exciting stuff.
Oh, and Thursday's Beyonce news conference. Did I mention that?
Forget about the big game. If my Twitter feed is any indication, a lot of people would have loved to possess my media credential simply so they could be in the same room as Beyonce, who on Sunday will perform at halftime of Super Bowl XLVII.
You know what they say: With great power comes great responsibility. And as the keeper of this gold credential, I realized that it was my duty to arrive early and document every minute of Beyonce's news conference.
It was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. I arrived at the cavernous hall, located on the ground floor of the New Orleans convention center, at 1:41. This is how the next hour unfolded
1:45: Inspiring music is pumping through the room's speakers, like something from "Chariots of Fire" or "Gladiator."
1:50: The newly crowned Miss America, Mallory Hagan, is doing an interview with a local TV station. The stage, upon which Beyonce will soon walk, is framed behind her. Hagan is asked what her favorite Beyonce song is. It's "Crazy in Love." When the spot is over, a man wearing an Atlanta Falcons shirt asks for a picture with Hagan, as I begin to imagine how he will explain that picture to friends: "This is me with Miss America. You know, just before the Beyonce news conference."
1:56: The man in front of me is crafting his Facebook post. He writes, "10 feet away from Be," then consults the media handout for a few seconds, glancing between the paper and his phone as he finishes typing "Beyonce." He posts the update. (His friends should know that he was actually 30 to 40 feet away from Beyonce.)
2:04: Music switches to something more peppy and Austin Powers-y.
2:06: A member of the crew walks onto the stage. He taps the microphone. Podium check. One-two. One-two. Yep, it's working.
2:14: A woman walks from one side of the stage to the other, balancing a plastic cup of water in her left hand. "This is for Beyonce," she says as she gives it to a stage hand. He places the water next to the steps that lead onto the platform. The cup looks precarious there, and yet still somehow magical.
2:18: Two women climb the steps onto the stage; one is holding a makeshift black table, the other a black cloth. Together, they arrange the setup just to the right of the microphone from which Beyonce will speak/sing. (More on that later.) Then one of the women comes to retrieve the water, which she places directly onto the table.
2:19: A straw is inserted into the water.
2:21: A man appears to the side of the stage, accompanied by a woman speaking into a headset, which makes everyone think the man is important. Someone asks him if he will be introducing Beyonce. "Not really," he says. "I get to introduce the guy who is introducing her." Someone asks him if he is with Pepsi. Yes, he says.
2:22: NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy walks up to the microphone; the room goes silent. "This is your two-minute warning," he says.
2:22: Everyone stops being quiet.
2:24: McCarthy returns and says, "This time it counts." Then he says something else, ending with "football, Pepsi, Beyonce a truly combustible combo." Now McCarthy introduces the guy from Pepsi, who will say nice things about Pepsi that will sound, to everyone in the room, like a lots of words that have nothing to do with Beyonce.
2:27: Nice things said about Pepsi.
2:28: Beyonce! She appears from the far corner, and the room crackles and pops. She glides across the stage and says, "Hello. How is everyone? Would you please stand." There is no question mark, because she means this as a statement. My first thought is, "Don't boss me!" But then I see an American flag digitally waving on the screen behind her, so I immediately stand.
2:29: Beyonce sings the national anthem. Beautifully. Her voice fills the room, bounces off every corner.
2:30: "Thank you," Beyonce says, then adds, her voice dripping with swagger, "Any questions?" But of course she doesn't really mean this as a question, either. She might as well have just dropped the microphone and walked off the stage. (In case you haven't been keeping up with your Beyonce news, she lip-synched the national anthem at President Obama's inauguration, which became some sort of pseudo-controversy.)
2:31-2:37: Sorry, I'm not paying attention at all. I am desperately Tweeting pics and updates of this breaking news -- Beyonce sings anthem, like, for real! -- as if I'm the only one in the room who has thought to do this. I also text a friend of mine who's not on Twitter.
2:40: A correspondent for one of the entertainment networks stands up and says, "First, let me just say what everyone is thinking: That was the first in-your-face here at the Super Bowl, you walking out here and doing that." I actually wasn't thinking that, but whatever. Then the correspondent gets to the question, which is clearly intended to trick Beyonce into confirming that she's performing at the Grammys.
2:40: Beyonce refuses to confirm that she's performing at the Grammys.
2:42: McCarthy, who has his own microphone, bops onto the stage and says, "I got 99 problems and Beyonce ain't one. Let's move on." Apparently, this means no more questions that are related, directly or indirectly, to the whole inauguration thing.
2:45: The last question goes to a reporter from Denmark, who asks Beyonce to choose which question he will ask: A, B or C.
2:45: Beyonce chooses B.
2:45: "What color is your toothbrush, and why did you choose that color?"
2:45: Beyonce laughs and says, "Blue and white, I think. Or is it blue and yellow?"
2:46: Beyonce poses for pictures at the front of the stage. The room crackles and pops again.
Like I said, a Super Bowl media credential is gold.