When we talk Super Bowl, we often mention the 5,000 credentialed media members from around the world.
The NFL requires reporters - or more likely their bosses - to apply for the credentials in November and there is some sort of vetting process. Then when you show up to the event, you go to the media center, show a state-issued ID and collect your placard - with your photo on it - that must be worn when you're in the media area.
The credentials come with various levels of access. Game-day credentials are a separate category and aren't issued until later in the week.
I've attended two Super Bowls now with a media credential. In San Francisco in 2016 and here in Houston, I've spent a lot of time in the media area working. We have a media "lounge" with a never-ending supply of much-needed bottled water and Pepsi products. The DIet Mountain Dew ran out first. There's coffee, popcorn, snack-sized bags of Doritos, pretzels and nuts along with apples, bananas and hot lunches and dinners.
Houston has done a great job in the care and feeding of reporters so much so that one day I did not step outdoors until 9 p.m. The media hotel I'm in, the Hilton Americas, is connected by skyway (yes!) to the convention center across the street.
It's a weird bubble where you frequently see - and don't recognize - famous players and personalties. My favorite this year: Charles James. I was chatting with Kevin Cooper of the Houston Host Committee when he greeted James, a former Texans player now with the Indianapolis Colts.
James, featured in the HBO Series "Hard Knocks." James played in U.S. Bank Stadium twice last season - because of the mid-season team switch. Without prompting, he said he liked the new stadium. The Florida native, however, didn't enjoy the temperatures in December.
On Friday night, I went outside the media bubble to see Leon Bridges at Super Bowl Live. My credential allows me to bypass the entry lines, but once inside, I get no perks. Happy to report that standing among the energetic crowd at the event and on the grassy lawn for the concert was a fun change.
Nonetheless, I'll use that card whenever I can to bypass a line. Saturday night is the Taste of the NFL - food from chefs in all 32 NFL cities. Cooper said it's the most coveted ticket of the week. I'll be there with my credential. From the Twin Cities, Revival's Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone will be dishing out some fancy chicken livers. Stay tuned.
Finally, I'd attach a photo of my credential to this story, but that would be a bad idea. The NFL doesn't like that because it can lead to counterfeit dupes. Last year, a reporter had his credential revoked after he posted a photo of it on social media.