Mike (at left) and Patrick Marek on the sidelines in 2013.
by BEN MCLEOD
Winona Post Publisher Patrick Marek and sports columnist Mike Marek have been fully credentialed by the NFL to cover Super Bowl LII. While the Winona Post's normal NFL coverage is derived from studious attention to televised games, stat analysis and careful prognostication, its Super Bowl coverage this year will be all of that and more, specifically two seasoned sports writers with full access, including practices, briefings, locker room and field access, and other resources made available specifically to credentialed press. "For us it's a transformation as columnists to go from watching on TV and reading to actually being there in person, to be able to go to press conferences, ask questions, get on the field; that access gives us extended coverage," said Patrick. Michael explained, "My dad [Patrick] graciously let me start helping with the Vikings column in 2012. He had me start on the less inspiring weeks including bye weeks and after the Vikings had been eliminated from the playoffs. After proving my mettle, he eventually allowed me a full split in the column, which was the start of our metamorphosis into a [Vikings] credentialed newspaper in 2013."
“When Mike moved to the Twin Cities, his persistence and persuasion helped us gain full media credentials to the Vikings and take our coverage to a new level," Patrick explained. "This access is unheard of for a community newspaper in a city the size of Winona, but the Vikings appreciated the quality and longevity of the Post’s Vikings coverage."
These press passes weren't easy to come by. With single tickets ranging from $4,000 to $14,000, the NFL and the host city are always very strict about who is allowed into the game. An estimated 5,000 press credentials are issued each year, which include TV, radio and online sources, in addition to print journalists. "There are a few more hoops to jump through to gain NFL access for the first time," said Michael. "You provide your Social Security number, photos, you talk to multiple people at the NFL. It's [important] from a quality standpoint."
"The credentials come from the NFL. They evaluate our coverage of football, and we're thankful they thought we were worthy," said Patrick. "It's a definite rite of passage to be verified by the NFL. They read our articles and granted us access."
Michael explained that he and Patrick will be set up in the auxiliary press box in the corner end zone, with a great view of the action on the field. They will have the chance to go onto the field and get an up-close view of the iconic trophy, too.
While the press will be admitted to the Super Bowl without paying for tickets, they aren't there to relax. It will be an intensely busy week. It won't be the Super Bowl Minnesotans were hoping for, but it will still be memorable. "Sunday was disappointing," Michael said of the Vikings' loss to Philadelphia. "It felt like it was finally the Vikings' year to take the whole thing down. The planets seemed to be aligned, and in typical Viking fashion it all came crumbling down. Having the Vikings play in a home Super Bowl would have been a dream come true, but it was just that — a dream. It will be disappointing that the Vikings won’t be playing; however, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to cover this game, and I’m honored to do so for the Winona Post."
The Mareks are continuing a father-son football tradition, although a Viking Super Bowl would have been ideal. "Some of my first waking memories were of watching the Vikings with my dad," Michael recalled. "We saw it all: quarterback controversies, big wins, big losses, playoff runs, and disasters. Through it all, win or lose, we still showed up for the next game." Patrick is also thrilled. "I can't wait to experience the Super Bowl from the press box with my son, Mike. Mike and I have watched Vikings games together since he was a little boy, and it didn’t take long for him to drink the purple Kool-Aid. It’s a tough rite of passage to be a Vikings fan, and Mike passed every purple litmus test."
The credentials are a tool — they will allow the Winona Post to provide detailed and full coverage of the game and the busy week that surrounds it. There will be food and fun events, but that's not the only draw for the Mareks. "It would have been nice to be covering the hometown Vikings," Michael admitted, "but it will be just as special knowing that I get to cover the big game with my dad." "We learned about a month ago that the two of us were granted full media credentials to the Super Bowl," added Patrick. "Mike and I will be providing our Winona Post readers with the complete Super Bowl experience … and getting some amazing father and son time in the process.”