Tom Terrific: For NH-based Super Bowl coverage, Telegraph is ‘King’
A career sportswriter who has covered more games and events than many people even attend in their lifetime, Tom King knows his way around the stadium, arena, field, athletic complex, or whatever game venue he’s working on any given day.
Better, he knows precisely where to find the best interviews, whether they’re high school kids and coaches or household-name franchise NFL players, who also have a talent for suddenly vanishing when the notebooks and microphones head their way.
So, that’s why it was so odd to see King, with 30-plus years here at The Telegraph, and who is believed to be the only New Hampshire sportswriter with nine Super Bowls under his belt, break a sheepish smile while recalling his experience covering Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville.
“Oh man, Jacksonville … I got completely lost,” he blurted, with a chuckle and eye roll. “I ended up walking right out of the stadium.”
The game – a pretty, 24-21 Patriots victory over Philadelphia – had just ended, and King, the deadline clock ticking in his head, set out on a brisk walk to the Pats’ clubhouse.
As it turned out, he’d inevitably joined the wrong scrum of humanity, the one made up mostly of fans hustling out to either celebrate or mourn the Pats’ third NFL championship in four years.
“I’m supposed to be in there talking to the players,” King said. “And here I was in the middle of a whole bunch of fans.”
King’s practice of following the Patriots through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl began not as part of a grand plan, but an idea that gained traction after the Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 1996 playoffs.
“They were thinking about sending me to Denver, but when Jacksonville won, it gave the Patriots home field the rest of the way,” he said.
Thanks to the Jaguars, it became a no-brainer for Telegraph decision-makers at the time: All King had to do was drive to Foxborough twice – for the divisional championship game against Pittsburgh, then, assuming a Patriots win, for the AFC championship game.
Nobody really saw the need to plan beyond that; after all, the Patriots’ lone Super Bowl appearance was a dozen years earlier, and they were trounced.
But a Pats victory forced the decision: Should we send Tom to New Orleans?
They did, and King departed for his first Super Bowl, a Patriots-Green Bay faceoff that set up a perfect local-angle storyline, he remembers.
“Don Davidson was mayor at the time, he’s a big Green Bay fan,” King said. In addition to working a couple of stories with Davidson, he began his practice, which he continues, of trying to ferret out Patriots fans from these parts, and ideally, from Greater Nashua.
Super Bowl XXXI was notable also for a little side drama: It was known even before kickoff that Coach Bill Parcells was jumping ship, headed for the New York Jets.
The media command post was next door to the Louisiana Superdome, King recalls, housed in a Hyatt hotel. “It wasn’t as big as it is now,” he said. “There was a lot less media. I remember we did everything by fax.”
Contrast that with Super Bowl XLIX, the 2015 battle with Seattle in which the Patriots prevailed, 28-24, in Phoenix.
The Wednesday before the game, King said, the Patriots set up a media availability session.
“I got up at 6 a.m. to get a shuttle bus,” he said with a laugh.
When he returned late that afternoon, weary and in need of a break, King said he saw “two guys just sitting there, having coffee.
“One had a Patriots shirt on, so I walked up and asked where he was from. He said, ‘I live in Scottsdale … but I’m originally from Nashua, N.H.’ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ” King said with a laugh.
With all the interviews he’s conducted, or stood in on, over the course of eight, going on nine, Super Bowls, one of King’s favorites came during the run-up to the 2015 Patriots-Seattle clash.
He’d just finished one of the occasional radio shows he did with a Seattle station (“they sort of latched onto me,” he said), when he noticed a larger-than-usual media gaggle surrounding one of the interview stages.
Holding microphones and standing side by side were Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, a two-fer not to be missed.
“Carroll was up there cracking jokes, trying to get Belichick to laugh,” King recalled. “And he did.
“It’s the best I ever saw,” he added, describing the back-and-forth between the legendary coaches as more comedy routine than interview.
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_DeanS.