Super Bowl 41

Super Bowl XL
Did I Really Sit In The Pouring Rain For Four Hours?



So today is February 2, 2020. It's Super Bowl Sunday...again. As a freelance sound mixer and recordist for NFL Films, over a period of 18 years I got to work five Super Bowl games, numerous Pro Bowl and Play Off games and then dozens of regular season games, not counting the dozens and dozens of other jobs I did for them including interviews, Hard Knocks, Under The Helmet, Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus performances, etc.

How this happened was by way of Bob Scott, a camera operator and later director of photography whom I had met in the early 1990s on a shoot for David Nixon Productions. Bob and I got along great, became friends and when NFL Films (or Films as we call them) needed a sound guy to work a 1992 Bucs game in Tampa with new head coach Sam Wyche, he recommended me and, as we say, the rest is history.

Tampa Bay Bucs Coach Sam Wyche

Cinematographer Bob Scott and I at a Tampa Bay Bucs game

Fast forward to February 4, 2007, Dolphins Stadium, for Super Bowl XLI. The Super Bowl is an incredible feat of technology for all involved whether it be for the live telecast or for the recording and use later via DVD and digital streaming. Thousands of people are involved, massive villages of semi-tractor trailer trucks full of television equipment, over 100 cameras, more than 50 miles of cabling, 500 plus people, and that’s just for the live telecast. Then there is NFL Films’ whole separate crew on top of that, using film cameras as well as digital video, numerous sound mixers and you have a mess of credentialed people that are checked going in and around the stadium. It’s a zoo but a fun one to work at...most of the time.

2007 was a different animal. Three years later I would be down there again for another Super Bowl and it rained again but fortunately, we could take shelter. This time there was none. My crew was a three person high camera post. Dolphins Stadium (today called the Hard Rock Stadium) had no overhangs or roof back then. The three of us found our place, around the 20 yard line, and the camera had been preinstalled by engineer/techs. We had been warned by our bosses that rain was on the way so earlier that day Bob and I had gone to the local big Bass store and bought rain gear. While we got settled into our seats in the nose-bleed level, I looked for a safe place to “hide” my audio mixer if and when the deluge hit. There was a large junction box just to my right so I put my gear in it while Bob got his camera set up for him to use. He was on a swivel seat which as he panned the camera, his chair would follow in the opposite direction. The camera also had a full rain cover already on it.


Totally soaked but all smiles from camera operator Bob Scott
And then the rain started...light at first. Billy Joel came out under an umbrella center field to do the National Anthem, playing on a beautiful baby grand piano that was not covered up. Ouch! I bet there was a flood sale the following week.


Billy Joel opens Super Bowl XLI in the rain
As the game progressed, so did the volume of rain until we were in a monsoon level storm. As I sat there, I just looked around at the totally packed stadium full of people and the strangest feeling came over me. I knew that these people paid hundreds and up to thousands of dollars for their seats (2020 tickets were going for $5000!) and rain was not going to keep them from being there. But this was like having a picnic with all the sprinklers on. I saw people who had come prepared with rain gear or had bought ponchos at the booths below, but most were just sitting there in their normal clothes, some even in fancy dresses and suits, in the hurricane level winds and rain. It all just seemed so surreal. Americans really are strange.

Dolphin's Stadium packed as the rains begin
The half-time show began featuring Prince and his band on stage at center field. I was not a Prince fan. I didn’t like what he represented in the image he put forward and in the lyrical content of his songs. But I have to admit, he put on a great show and the sound system in that stadium was awesome. What was strange was every now and then you’d hear a wrong note and with that sound system it was a LOUD wrong note. We soon realized that it was big rain drops hitting the strings of his guitar! That was a new one for me. It was an extravaganza but it was pretty much just a straight concert with dancers, lights, and the usual fireworks at the end.


Prince during halftime in the pouring rain

 Prince on stage during halftime

The second half of the game started and the rain got worse. Our line producer would keep handing Bob video tapes and I’d check to see how moist my mixer was getting. Even though it was in a case and in a big box, that box was still sitting in 100% humidity. Finally, when the game was over and we could leave the stadium our job wasn’t over with yet. We had to go and do interviews, thankfully inside and out of the rain. Even though we were now inside, after hours out in the humidity, my gear started acting up. Electronics don’t like water and my mixer eventually died. I always carry a backup and had to switch to that. That first mixer never recovered. 
https://scontent-mia3-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/p720x720/83840553_2787070724664551_478289757105815552_o.jpg?_nc_cat=105&_nc_sid=32a93c&_nc_ohc=ALONhOfCsIwAX9dfw0K&_nc_ht=scontent-mia3-2.xx&_nc_tp=6&oh=9207493d712e5eaccda1310f23ac47a2&oe=5F081B46
One very wet sound recordist

When the last interview was done, we made our way back to the hotel. In my room I changed clothes. I was soaked from the waist down and my wallet was too. I had to take all my money and cards and lay them on the bed to dry out. After big games, “Films” always hosts a big breakfast for its crews at about 3am so I made my way to the ball room and chowed down. Within a few hours I’d be on a plane for the short flight back to home and then some cleanup and drying off my gear before crawling into bed for a day of sleep. This would be one of the weirdest gigs I’d ever do during my nearly three decade career in the film/TV business.

© 2019-2020 Robert Whitehurst - All rights reserved
May not be duplicated without permission

Copyrights to all artwork belong to each copyright holder