ESPN anchor Hannah Storm covered her first Super Bowl in 1986, won by those famously shuffling Chicago Bears, and had a unique perch this week to see just how much the media attention has grown. Storm hosted Super Bowl Opening Night, which had some 5,500 credentialed media types, and aired in prime for the first time Feb. 1.(Opening Night is a new iteration from the usual Media Day madness, and is still pretty nutty.)
“It started with Joe Namath poolside [in 1969] and over the years became bigger and bigger and bigger,” she tells B&C. “It’s an entirely different ballgame now.”
The buildup to Super Bowl 50 has actually reminded her of Super Bowl XX, when the Bears—Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Coach Ditka, Refrigerator Perry—had their “Super Bowl Shuffle” song, and were making the most of their time in the spotlight. “The Panthers are very much evocative of those Bears,” she says. “They’re fun, they cross over into pop culture—they really seem to be enjoying themselves.”
Besides the obvious Peyton-Cam/Old School-New School angle, Storm—who has covered sports for NBC and CNN as well, and hosted The Early Show for a spell on CBS—has seen a few entertaining storylines pop up this time around. (Manning, she says, seems to be enjoying what is almost certainly his final time at a Super Bowl, at least as a player, and not worrying about his health or his legacy.) She has sat with Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who arrived in Santa Clara following a succession of brutal knee injuries, and then sustained a broken arm in the NFC championship game Jan. 24.
“It’s remarkable he’s still able to play at this level,” says Storm. “He really shouldn’t even be here, and he is.”
Storm expands her role at ESPN Feb. 8, hosting the 10-11 a.m. slot on SportsCenter and doing her Face to Face interview segments with sports newsmakers. The media attention at the Super Bowl may be overkill, but she says the big game deserves at least most of the fuss. “I don’t think you can have too much,” she says. “The Super Bowl is a national event, and everyone is invested in it—the game, the parties, the characters.”