Sally on the Sidelines
Even for veteran television anchor Sally Wiggin, Superbowl XLIII took her breath away.
Live from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa (l-r): WTAE’s field producer, Dan Henninger; photographer, Dan Pratt; Sally Wiggin; Guy Junker; Andrew Stockey and photographer T.J. Haut.
Since returning home after covering Super Bowl XLIII, the question I’m asked most is, ”Did you have fun?” My answer? “Yes—and no.” Fun is not how I’d describe a week of 15-hour days drenched in coffee and Diet Coke. Fun is not standing in the tunnel of Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium during the last six minutes of one of the most exciting Super Bowls in NFL history. Fun is not straining to see the game on a television monitor hanging from the ceiling while Arizona Cardinals reporters cheer as Larry Fitzgerald scores.
However, fun is slapping each other on the back as Ben and Santonio thrill millions with inimitable grace and cool. Fun is running with my WTAE colleagues Andrew Stockey, Guy Junker and photographer T.J. Haut onto the field when it’s time to go live (Andrew gripping my hand to keep us from being separated in the mad rush to the microphones). But the best was sharing, for a cherished few moments, the unbridled glee these elite athletes expressed in the aftermath of the win: Deshea Townsend calling out our names as he finished up an interview with a competitor; Ryan Clark revealing his young son had burst into tears when the Cardinals shot into the lead with two minutes on the clock; Chris Hoke nearly squeezing the life out of us.
Andrew Stockey asked Steelers president Art Rooney II if the Lombardi trophy was heavy and Mr. Rooney handed it to him. Why, oh, why, didn’t I ask to hold it? I’m still kicking myself!
The preceding week, while exhausting, was almost as exhilarating. It was a thrill to watch some of the best sports writers in the country at work during the news conferences with the players and coaches—to observe Mike Tomlin answer each question as deftly as if he had been here many times before. I also was tickled when Troy Polamalu gave me an almost imperceptible wave from his booth as I called out a question.
I confess I was nearly hyperventilating when I asked Ben Roethlisberger a question. He was on the stage and the place was packed. I almost never ask questions at news conferences—too embarrassed—but I needed an answer for my piece on the offensive line, and no one else had asked him about it. I was positively giddy once I’d done it.
When it came to get the newscast on the air each night, we became pretty adept at pulling it together just about anywhere. For most of the week, our set was the outdoor atrium at the Steelers’ hotel. We wrote and edited on tables where workers came to eat lunch or smoke. When it rained, the hotel’s banquet storage room became our cramped—and very chilly—workspace. Periodically, we would make a snack run and were enthusiastically greeted in the hotel lobby by fans patiently waiting for autographs.
The Steelers’ domination of the Tampa landscape was total. Whether folks had moved to Florida or were just visiting from the ’Burgh—fans completely covered the city like a black-and-gold blanket. Make that a Towel!
I’m not ashamed to say I cried as I watched thousands of towels waving madly as the Steelers ran onto the field. Steeler Nation is inspirational. Ask the players on America’s Team. And ask the First Family of Football—the Rooneys. Thank you, to all of them. And, last but not least, a huge thank you to the entire WTAE crew in Tampa and fans here at home. You made work a joy.