It was Nov. 22, 2006, and Larry Fitzgerald Jr. was on a conference call with Minnesota reporters covering that week's game between Fitzgerald's Cardinals and his hometown Vikings.

One particularly persistent reporter asked a question. Then another. Then another.

Fitzgerald paused after the third question. What followed didn't come from the mouth of Larry Fitzgerald, superstar receiver. Judging by the tone in the voice, it came from Larry Fitzgerald, the little kid who grew up on 48th Street and Portland Avenue in Minneapolis.

"Daaaad," Fitzgerald said. "What are you doing? You can ask me these questions at home."

Larry Fitzgerald Sr. smiled and asked the question again. The longtime Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder sportswriter and local radio host was just doing his job.

Since then, "Little" Larry has landed a $40 million contract and put together one of the finest postseasons by a receiver in NFL history. His Cardinals play the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday in Tampa.

"Big" Larry will be there. Working. Just like he has at every other Super Bowl since 1981. He no longer needs the job, but he wants the job and loves the job because, well, "It's what I do."

As the Super Bowl hype kicks into high gear with today's always-bizarre media day, Big Larry will be in the mass of humanity, trying to fire off questions to his son. Like other reporters, he will have to shout the loudest and the longest and then hope Little Larry chooses to answer his question and not some inane inquiry from alleged comedian Gilbert Gottfried, singer and noted airhead Kellie Pickler or God knows who else.

"I'm going to be just like any other journalist down there," Big Larry said.

Just like any other journalist down there? Hardly.

As far as anyone can remember, Big Larry will be the first sportswriter to cover his son in the Super Bowl. That makes him the coolest guy in the press box come Sunday.

It also puts him in a position most of us couldn't handle. After all, a longstanding rule in sports is "No Cheering in the Press Box!"

Press box employees and overzealous owners have been known to break the rule. Heck, Giants owner John Mara dropped more profanities in the Lambeau Field press box during last year's NFC title game than Chris Rock did in his last video.

Reporters, on the other hand, generally don't have a problem not cheering. Then again, most of us aren't covering sons or daughters who just broke Jerry Rice's postseason record for receiving yards.

This week will be bittersweet for the Fitzgeralds. While they will enjoy some evenings together -- off the record, of course -- Carol Fitzgerald, the mother of Little Larry and wife of Big Larry, won't be there. She died of breast cancer in 2003.

Big Larry said he, Little Larry and youngest son Marcus will be thinking a lot about Carol this week. Carol always loved going to the Super Bowl parties with Big Larry.

With so much emotion to carry into the press box on Sunday, I'm pretty sure the rest of us would grant Big Larry a pass on the No-Cheering rule. In fact, if the Cardinals win on a last-second touchdown pass to Little Larry, I think we'd look the other way if Big Larry wanted to do a backflip off his chair, plant his dismount and scream, "Hoooooooo-ray! That's my SON!"

But that won't happen. Outward signs of emotion aren't Big Larry's style. He has covered Little Larry many times before, and nobody remembers him doing much more than quietly scribbling notes.

"I don't watch the game as a fan or a dad," Big Larry said. "I watch it as a journalist. I'm evaluating the play. I see what Larry does. I just don't jump up and down about it in the press box."

At least not on the outside. Inside, well, that's a different story. And Big Larry also has been known to heap praise on Little Larry in print. Then again, who hasn't?

"Later, when we watch the [tape of the game], I'm able to jump up and down and yell," Big Larry said. "I'm happy for him. I am his father."

Mark Craig •