Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
NEWARK - It goes without saying that nothing can be considered normal in a metropolitan-area sports week that finds hockey players on a baseball field and football players on a hockey rink.
But that only began to describe the unusualness of the NFL bringing the most famously wacky bit of Super Bowl theater to an unprecedented venue Tuesday:
Prudential Center in Newark -- a city that has muddled along absent an NFL franchise since the Tornadoes went 1-10-1 in 1930, then folded.
The move to a hockey arena from the customary stadium site was made to avoid having players and journalists -- some of whom traditionally wear skimpy clothing for the event -- exposed to the winter chill.
It produced a unique configuration in which key figures such as Peyton Manning were placed in the middle of the floor, unlike in stadiums where everyone is lined up along one sideline to avoid soiling the playing surface itself.
Other differences: Players wore stylish warm-up suits rather than jerseys, non-stars were sent to a holding pen rather than allowed to roam and the between-sessions brunch was held on slippery boards over the Devils' practice rink.
Things that were not different: strange questions, tight quarters and for the third year in a row paying customers in the stands to observe the goings-on. (Broncos fans appeared to outnumber those for the Seahawks.)
Another thing that hadn't changed was the presence of ESPN's Chris Berman, whose first Media Day was at Super Bowl XVI in Pontiac, Mich., and who has been to 31 of the 32 since, including one in a baseball stadium.
(The Bills and Cowboys spoke at Dodger Stadium before playing at the Rose Bowl in 1993, so Tuesday was not the first cross-sport Media Day.)
"I'm excited to run into Martin Brodeur,'" Berman said after making the rounds interviewing and being interviewed -- by everyone from the Steelers' Brett Keisel to a Canadian radio station interested in his CFL picks.
Berman said that while he was not complaining about the venue he did miss seeing the players in their uniforms on the field where the game would be played.
What about playing the game in the New York area, where he grew up an avid Jets fan? "There's a little bit of an aura, and I'm a history guy, so it does mean more," he said.
Berman annually is one of the biggest attention-getters among media members at Media Day, as is Ines Sainz, the Mexican TV reporter who in 2010 found herself at the center of controversy after being subjected to catcalls in the Jets locker room.
This is her 11th Super Bowl. What did she think of the New York version of Media Day? "It's too small, probably, and everybody is having problems with that, but it's OK, it's OK," she said. "I prefer doing it here than outside in the cold stadium so I'm not complaining about it."
Regarding the Super Bowl itself being played in New Jersey, she said, "Could be the worst weather ever, could be not, but we are going to be ready and it's going to be history for NFL, so it's amazing."
The happiest man at the Rock might have been its CEO, Scott O'Neil, who was reveling in mostly positive images of the arena beamed around the world.
"This will shine a spotlight on New Jersey, on Newark and on the Prudential Center," he said, looking over the scene. "This is as good as it gets."
Soon the parade was moving on, back to points north and east. But the memories figured to linger longer than those of the 1930 Tornadoes did.