Minneapolis Memories

Super Bowl Week is always a blur. I show up at the site of the NFL’s annual convention and championship game believing I’ll have time to catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances, try out local restaurants, see the sights AND host quality radio shows that put people on the scene with us. It never works out that way, though. I’m too busy trying to survive Radio Row. Between afternoons spent recording interviews with current and former players and other special guests and evenings in studio, the time flies. There isn’t much sleeping, eating, or visiting with colleagues from around the country, though I usually manage a network get-together for some free snacks.

This Super Bowl Week in Minneapolis was my fourth on Radio Row, and it was a great success (except for the cold I brought home with me). The city was a perfect host, and the Mall of America served as a fitting hub. As a general rule, I avoid malls like the plague, especially on busy days. But despite the size of this mall and thousands of people roaming multiple floors and concourses, it wasn’t overwhelming. However, it was TIGHT quarters in the Mall’s north food court. We were crammed inside the ropes with very little space to maneuver. CBS Sports Radio operated from what could be described as the corner office: a large desk on a platform with multiple seats and microphones to juggle non-stop shows and interviews. Our backs were up against the third-floor railing that overlooked a large atrium. Football fans weren’t allowed inside the ropes; but they were eating, shopping, cheering, gawking, taking photos, and contributing to the general mayhem. It was a bonus to have the space behind us while we worked. At least no one could sneak up on us!

I can’t blame fans for gawking. The star power on Radio Row every year is incredible, and Minneapolis was no exception. Among the notable moments: Kirk Cousins sitting at our desk, talking about his future just hours before his team traded for Alex Smith; Terrell Davis, sporting his gold Hall of Fame jacket from last summer’s induction; and Terrell Owens with his entourage, dark sunglasses, and backpack equipped with speakers, two days before he found out he’s part of the newest HOF class. It’s fun to be in the middle of the fray and watch the ripple effects and reactions around me.

We try to field a unique guest list every year. Producer Tom works on it for weeks; very often, the names and times are still fluctuating at the last second. It’s a labor of love to be sure! This year, I recorded 15 interviews over the course of three afternoons. The wide range of personalities, backgrounds, perspectives, and experience kept me on my toes but also created amazing variety for our shows. And the stories I managed to pull out of our guests–I’m extremely proud of those.

My first guest was Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter, a snowboarder who won gold on her debut run at the Torino Games in 2006. She was as laid back and chill as you’d expect a snowboarder from Vermont to be. But her tales of Olympic triumph and heartbreak (she barely missed qualifying for Pyeongchang) and her passion for Special Olympics (her brother is a competitor and her biggest fan) stuck with me. I also won’t forget my powerful conversation with former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley whose career was cut short by a brutal helmet to helmet hit in 2011. Not only did he need spinal chord surgery, but a few years later, neurologists determined that nearly HALF of his brain was damaged. He told me about his darkest days when he wanted to give up and walk away from everything; but he also shared his road to recovery and what he would change about his career if he could. I’m so thankful I had the chance to speak to him and Hannah. They opened up about personal struggles which increased their determination and perseverance. Both interviews are available on the¬†After Hours with Amy Lawrence YouTube channel! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCil0Lx3nrl6zwK1mTjFuGfg

Other highlights? Recently retired running back Justin Forsett confessing his nerves and mistakes during his pitch on Shark Tank last month; Lions great Herman Moore emphasizing the risks that NFL receivers should never take on the field; former QB Bruce Gradkowski admitting most of the high schoolers he coached in Toledo last season knew almost nothing about his pro football career; three-time Super Bowl champ Troy Brown spilling secrets of the “Patriot Way”; and Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes steering the conversation toward his survival from prostate cancer and pushing other families to get informed and get checked. However, before we started recording, Mike briefly excused himself to exchange a greeting and hug with Dan Marino.

Two of my favorite interviews took place on my last day on Radio Row. It was incredible to hear Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander share his firsthand account of watching with his teammates as the Bengals rallied past the Ravens in Week 17 with a dramatic touchdown that clinched Buffalo’s first trip to the postseason this century!! Right after I talked to him, I sat down with Billy “White Shoes” Johnson who was, in fact, wearing his signature white shoes. It was my first time meeting this NFL legend, and he was so much fun. He was dancing in end zones in the 70s before the league ever cared. He’s at least two inches shorter than me, yet his returns were dazzling and dynamic. He’s a grandfather now, but his face lit up as he talked about catching a punt and knowing he had the advantage over the guys chasing him. Awesome! (Both Lorenzo and Billy are also immortalized on YouTube.)

All the hard work was done by Friday morning when I wrapped up my last show, and Minneapolis offered extra incentive to cross the finish line strong. I was only two hours away from my 95-year-old Grammy’s hometown. So I packed up the rental car and set out for farm country Wisconsin on the coldest morning of the week: the thermometer in the car dipped to -11 on the way! I normally see her just once a year in the spring or summer; this was a bonus. We bundled up and ran errands on Friday with my uncle; and despite the brittle cold (the kind that hurts your lungs when you breathe), we also went to the local country club for shrimp dinner. That’s one of my grandmother’s favorite weekly activities. So is the game of Upwords, and we managed a few games before we retired for the night.

I will always cherish my Saturday in snowy Wisconsin. It couldn’t have been more opposite from the buzz and excitement of Minneapolis. Grammy didn’t leave her apartment because of the snow, and I didn’t go far. I helped her with a load of laundry, washed all her dishes, cleaned up her kitchen, and vacuumed her little place. It wasn’t all that different from a Saturday at home, devoted to life’s little mundane tasks, except my heart was full of joy because Grammy was happy. She fell asleep in the chair halfway through Apollo 13, but it was wonderful to sit there with her, soaking in the peace and quiet. I had to drive back to Minneapolis early Sunday to catch my flight home before the game, and Grammy teared up when I left. But I was able to hug her and promise I’d return in a few months.

I’m so grateful for the annual opportunity to cover the massive occasion that is Super Bowl Week. It offers amazing access inside the football world and provides my one chance all year to look my guests directly in the eye and smile! But this trip was extra special, thanks to my Wisconsin weekend. Thank you, NFL, for choosing Minneapolis! Helen’s sweet photo is the souvenir I brought home, though she’d cluck at me if she knew I was posting it online. Love you, Grammy!! XO

 

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Minneapolis Memories”

  1. Ken Freeman Says:

    GOD BLESS OUR GRAMMY’S. May yours live to the age of mine & THEN SOME. & MORE—101 yrs young & counting.

  2. Linda Anderson Says:

    Thank you for sharing your special moments. Brings smiles, happy memories and yes a tear for those wonderful times we sometimes take for granted.

  3. Thanks Amy for sharing a very personal experience with us. I’m so happy you got to spend a few hours with Grammy. Please hurry back! (and don’t forget the cheese curds)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: