INDIANAPOLIS | Mike Copper has followed football since his days growing up in Valparaiso. He played basketball and later coached it, but remained a steadfast Colts fan.
So when the Super Bowl arrived in Indiana and fans were invited to Media Day for the first time, Copper jumped at the chance to attend.
He was one of more than 7,000 fans who filled one side of Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday for the spectacle that was Super Bowl Media Day.
"More than the athletes, it's the circus," Copper said. "People who are interested in sports is a small segment of our society, but this weekend it's important — and particularly important for Indianapolis."
Fans received radio earpieces, through which they could hear interviews taking place on the field. The radios scrolled between several stations, giving fans the choice of athlete whom they wanted to hear.
While some Giants and Patriots fans speckled the crowd, the majority wore Colts colors. They also listened closely to mentions of the hometown team, cheering when Patriots auarterback Tom Brady said he hoped Peyton Manning would return next season. Manning's brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, received a simmilarly warm welcome.
"I'm excited about being here," Eli Manning said. "My mindset is I'm here to play a game. This is just the Super Bowl venue. I'm not looking at the fact that this is where Peyton has played his career."
Media Day is a longstanding Super Bowl tradition, featuring characters in costumes — a Mongol and a superhero asked athletes questions Tuesday — but never before actual fans. That changed this year, as the Colts invited season ticket holders to buy seats in the stands for $25 each. Concessions and souvenir stands were also up and running during the event.
It was all part of the ongoing effort in Indianapolis to give fans every opportunity to be part of the Super Bowl scene, even if they don't have a ticket for Sunday's game.
Copper said it demonstrated the Midwestern hospitality Indiana has extended since winning its bid to host the game. The campaign also included hand-knit scarves — in Colts colors — for each volunteer and handwritten welcome notes from schoolchildren in the state.
"It's a wonderful experience with Indianapolis hosting an event like this," Copper said. "The closeness of the urban setting makes it neat, whether it's the NCAA tournament or in this case the Super Bowl. You can drive your car right downtown and not get back in it."