Super Bowl Diary: Hollywood meets Hogwarts in LA

Hannah Wilkes

Overtime Presenter & NFL Reporter

Watch Super Bowl LVI from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles live on Sky Sports NFL on Sunday; the AFC’s Cincinnati Bengals face the Los Angeles Rams from the NFC (kick-off, 11.30pm), with live coverage under way from 10pm

Last Updated: 14/02/22 4:17am

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Sky Sports’ Hannah Wilkes takes you on a tour round Los Angeles as the city builds up to Super Bowl LVI between the Rams and the Bengals at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
Sky Sports’ Hannah Wilkes takes you on a tour round Los Angeles as the city builds up to Super Bowl LVI between the Rams and the Bengals at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

Sky Sports NFL’s Hannah Wilkes is in Los Angeles for all of the build-up to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, bringing you her daily diary as she goes behind-the-scenes at Super Bowl week…

Hello from Los Angeles! Super Bowl LVI is finally here and so are we! Well, four of us are.

The main show on Sky Sports NFL is back at base come Sunday, but our crew on the ground will bring you all of the build-up to the big game from the City of Ángels itself.

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Watch Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, live on Sky Sports NFL from 10pm on Sunday.
Watch Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, live on Sky Sports NFL from 10pm on Sunday.

Friday

Friday in L.A. and the fans have very much arrived. Jerseys of multiple colours are all over downtown, but plenty of the blue and yellow of the Rams, in particular – they are at home after all!

Tickets for SoFi Stadium on Sunday are officially harder to get hold of than the golden snitch (more on this Harry Potter reference later). ‘Get in’ tickets are reselling for a massive $3,000 a pop, with the average ticket a whopping $8,000, according to some re-sale websites.

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Hall of fame quarterback, and Super Bowl winner with the Rams, Kurt Warner joins Inside The Huddle and takes a closer look at the two QBs set to battle it out in Sunday’s big game.
Hall of fame quarterback, and Super Bowl winner with the Rams, Kurt Warner joins Inside The Huddle and takes a closer look at the two QBs set to battle it out in Sunday’s big game.

Our day started with a hotel move; traffic in L.A. is beyond belief and with most of the Radio Row activities now wrapped up, we need to be closer to the stadium for Sunday (logistics, yay!).

Then it was over to SoFi itself for a chat in the sun with Brian Baldinger for the Super Bowl preview show of Inside The Huddle (Sky Sports NFL, Saturday, 9pm), before heading back downtown to speak to New York Jets captain C.J. Mosely.

Turns out C.J. is a FIFA-playing Chelsea fan and is very excited by the prospect of more time in London, with the Jets being awarded marketing rights in the UK. He also said he’s only in L.A. for a couple of days – he refuses to go to a Super Bowl until he’s playing in one.

We finished the day with… well, a trip to Universal Studios. The official media party of this year’s Super Bowl had our crew giddy with childlike glee racing between rides and studio tours, including a couple of flights around Hogwarts.

Hollywood meets Hogwarts with a trip to Universal Studios in the build-up to the Super Bowl

Safe to say the NFL is really leaning into the Hollywood element of an L.A. Super Bowl!

Thursday

Radio Row? Completed it mate.

Thursday’s lineup of interviewees looked a little like this:

  • Jordan Palmer for a QB breakdown you can catch pre-game on Sunday.
  • Brett Gosper: The Head of Europe & UK for the NFL is very excited about the expansion into Germany for a regular season game in the 2022 season. Using the UK as a blueprint he even mentioned a possible Academy & is optimistic that more teams will follow the Jaguars lead and opt to play games abroad going forward.
  • Todd Gurley: Who not only held a door open for me, but also agreed to a chat. I stopped short of telling him my Fantasy Team is still “Runs Like A Gurley” in the interests of playing it cool.
  • Brandon Copeland: I had the pleasure of meeting Brandon alongside Whitney Holtzman (marketing manager/NFL agent/author extraordinaire). Midway through discussing his time in London with the Falcons this season we thought we better turn a camera on and get him a mic. Definitely a good call.
  • Nick Mangold: The NY Jets official ambassador to the UK is still unsure what the title entails, but would like his embassy residence to be in Buckingham Palace. I said I’ll see what we can do and in return he gave me a jar of his BBQ sauce. An absolute W.
  • LeGarrette Blount: I probably kept LeGarrette a little longer than is deemed acceptable but with three Super Bowl victories to dissect (including a certain 28-3 game AND being a part of the Philly Special), his friendship with OBJ, and him being a genuinely nice guy, I forgot we were even filming.
  • Phoebe Shecter: Yes, this counts. We had a mini Overtime reunion (Josh is also here but red carpet duty called so we excused him) to discuss Germany (Oktoberfest may coincide with the scheduled game in Munich, as if you needed more of an excuse), the Bengals WR corps & Joe Mixon. After a little prodding, I even got her to nail down her Super Bowl pick and…she went Rams. Which does seem to be the consensus on Radio Row three days from game day.

A productive day all round, but shout out to Producer Greg who kept his chin up (and jeans intact) after approaching and being turned down for interviews by Justin Herbert, CeeDee Lamb and Dak Prescott in quick succession.

Wednesday

Hannah Wilkes ‘working’ at Santa Monica Beach in Los Angeles

Not to sound too smug but… I’m writing this while sat on Santa Monica Beach, watching the Pacific tide roll in, in glorious 30 degree weather. And I am genuinely working. Ha!

In fact, I’m on ‘tide watch’ to make sure no camera equipment gets ruined whilst we film a very special ‘Baldy’s Breakdown’ for the pre-game show on Sunday. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!

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Check out some of the best plays from the likes of Odell Beckham Jr, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp as the Los Angeles Rams prepare for Super Bowl LVI.
Check out some of the best plays from the likes of Odell Beckham Jr, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp as the Los Angeles Rams prepare for Super Bowl LVI.

Brian Baldinger has indeed joined us, so our tiny on-site crew is now up to five. The former offensive lineman is a font of all NFL knowledge, with some great top-secret nuggets (sorry!), but the biggest revelation in just one day of Baldy’s company is unquestionably that Eminem name drops him in ‘Legacy’. Having checked the lyrics, I’m not entirely sure it was a compliment but what a claim to fame!

A top-secret Baldy’s Breakdown on Santa Monica Beach for Super Bowl LVI

Big news today for European NFL fans, with Munich being announced as the first German city to host a regular season NFL game. Over the next four years, they’ll rotate between Bayern Munich’s stadium and Frankfurt Stadium in, well, Frankfurt. Add in a further two games at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ return to Wembley, and the 2022 season is shaping up nicely.

Plenty of familiar faces to us Brits haunting Radio Row today. Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora stopped by for a Sky Sports News cross (Osi said my outfit was “very L.A.”, mission accomplished) and we caught up with London’s own Efe Obada.

Efe was super candid about his first season with the Buffalo Bills, how the team are still hurting from their divisional round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and was very humble about sacking Tom Brady. You can catch more from him on Inside the Huddle this week.

Tuesday

Super Bowl LVI will be played at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL from 10pm

Day Two in L.A., and with a significantly better rested crew, we headed out bright and early to capture some of the events happening around game week.

First stop was an NFL Green Huddle event at a community space in South Central L.A. called ‘A Place Called Home’. With a little help from the Rams, including mascot Rampage and a couple of cheerleaders, 56 garden walls were being planted by volunteers to be delivered to local families to help them have access to fresh vegetables, eat better and live more sustainably.

Hannah Wilkes meets Los Angeles Rams mascot Rampage

It’s so impressive to see what an impact the Super Bowl has on the cities it takes over; it goes much further than the game itself.

A quick ride across town and we were back on Radio Row, which was a whole lot busier than on Monday. Pat McAfee was holding court filming his show as we walked in (that guy is LOUD!) and across the way our pals from Around The NFL were on stage recording their Tuesday show.

We grabbed the wonderful Coleen Wolfe from NFL Network for a chat – catch this on Inside the Huddle (Wednesday, 9pm, Sky Sports NFL) – and as a true Philadelphian she managed to squeeze in a mention of the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII win into our chat. Flawless.

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Around The NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal joins Inside The Huddle in the run-up to Super Bowl LVI and heaps praise on Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
Around The NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal joins Inside The Huddle in the run-up to Super Bowl LVI and heaps praise on Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Michael Carter, the New York Jets rookie running back, was also on the ‘row and waxed lyrical about playing in London back in October (his British accent still needs some work).

Carter put up 172 total yards up in the Jets’ Week Eight victory over the Bengals and admitted that he may have started himself in Fantasy Football that week (top points scorer, good call!) but he doubts the Rams are using his game tape to prep – “they’re a very different team now”, he said of the Bengals.

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New York Jets rookie running back Michael Carter reflects on playing in London last season and makes his predictions for Super Bowl LVI.
New York Jets rookie running back Michael Carter reflects on playing in London last season and makes his predictions for Super Bowl LVI.

To wrap up our Tuesday, we headed out to catch the ‘Stars and Stripes Bowl’, which involved NFL Alumni, local kids and military veterans playing flag football with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and our pal Ryan Leaf under center.

National anthems, BBQ, and flag football under Tuesday night lights. A winning combo! … Although not for producer Greg, who had to make an emergency shopping trip after a “trouser split” situation.

Hannah and crew attend the ‘Stars and Stripes Bowl’, a flag football in Los Angeles

In fact, two of our four-person crew had slight shockers today. The ‘golf caddy catastrophe’ of Monday has revealed to be entirely the fault of production manager Rhys, despite his insistence that it was “just a really dodgy one”.

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A look at some of the best plays from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow from the 2021 NFL season
A look at some of the best plays from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow from the 2021 NFL season

Arrival in L.A.

We’ve been in town just over 24 hours and we’ve crammed quite a lot into them. I’ve noted a few things down for your entertainment…

Sunday, 3.30pm

Touchdown in the USA! Bamboozled by an immigration officer whistling a happy tune.

Sunday, 7.30pm

Like true Brits abroad, we’re in an Irish Bar for dinner – complete with an unexpected Eminem singalong to get us ready for the half-time show.

Eminem is among the performers who will headline the Super Bowl LVI half-time show

Monday, 2am

Hello jet lag!

Monday, 10am

Super Bowl media credentials collected, we are IN!

Hannah Wilkes reports from Radio Row for Sky Sports News

We head straight to ‘Radio Row’ for our first live hit on Sky Sports News. Radio Row is where literally rows and rows of all of the global media organisations covering the Super Bowl will be housed under the same roof.

We bump into former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf and discover he’s under center for a flag football game on Tuesday night. He joked on NFL Overtime this season that he wanted to go for Tom Brady’s touchdown pass record – it’s on!

Monday, 1pm

Popped into the ‘Super Bowl Experience’ to film a couple more links. It’s like one giant NFL theme park and will be absolutely buzzing when it opens to fans on Thursday.

Monday, 3pm

Headed to SoFi Stadium to film a couple of pieces to camera. It’s already humming with activity, although we can’t get into the stadium itself – it’s locked down until Sunday so the half-time show, anthems and all the pageantry can be rehearsed in top secret.

Hannah Wilkes pays a visit to SoFi Stadium ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday

While our cameraman supremo Si captures some “art”, producer Greg is temporarily recruited as an iPhone cameraman for another reporter. After seriously working the angles for the guy we manage to reclaim Greg as our own.

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Take a look at how the Los Angeles Rams made it to Super Bowl LVI, charting the highs and lows of their 2021 season.
Take a look at how the Los Angeles Rams made it to Super Bowl LVI, charting the highs and lows of their 2021 season.

Monday, 3.30pm

A small incident involving the world’s worst golf cart. No one harmed, but pride damaged!

Monday, 4pm

Hello traffic!

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Take a look at how the Cincinnati Bengals made it to Super Bowl LVI, charting the highs and lows of their 2021 season.
Take a look at how the Cincinnati Bengals made it to Super Bowl LVI, charting the highs and lows of their 2021 season.

Monday, 5pm

Back to the ‘Super Bowl Experience’ to film a Sky Sports News piece with friend of Sky Sports NFL, The Ringer‘s Nora Princiotti.

With Tom Brady’s “never say never” comments regarding a comeback, and Nora’s background as the Patriots’ beat reporter I ask her about that first… and get a laugh!

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Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds says Tom Brady is the greatest player the sport has ever seen and he is ‘going out on top’
Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds says Tom Brady is the greatest player the sport has ever seen and he is ‘going out on top’

Brady eh? We’re still talking about him during Super Bowl week whether he’s here or not.

Monday, 7.30pm

Pizza!

Watch Super Bowl LVI live on Sky Sports NFL and Main Event from 10pm on Sunday, February 13, with current players Kirk Cousins and Calais Campbell, and Hall of Famer Warren Moon among the guests joining Neil Reynolds for 90 minutes of build-up to the big game.

Source : Sky Sports