For eight straight years, this weekend has meant one thing to ESPN’s New England Patriots reporter, Mike Reiss – AFC Championship Sunday.
That makes the next few days a bit awkward for a guy who has been covering the team since 1997 (he joined ESPN in 2009). Reiss, honored earlier this month as the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by the NSMA (see sidebar below), is not looking for sympathy in any way. He knows what an incredible era of Patriots football he’s been able to cover.
But Front Row was curious as to what this “new experience” during Championship weekend will be like for Reiss.
What will you be doing instead of covering the AFC Championship game this weekend?
Lots of Dad stuff. Swim lessons. Basketball games. The kids are planning to have friends over. My wife Sigalle makes many sacrifices during the season, so I hope me being around means she gets to make up for some lost time. But I’ll definitely be watching the games. We have four great NFL Nation reporters covering the action – Turron Davenport (Titans), Adam Teicher (Chiefs), Rob Demovsky (Packers) and Nick Wagoner (49ers) – and I let them know that if I can help with a replay, or anything from watching at home, to just shout.
What have the past two weeks been like for you as compared to those eight previous?
Here’s sort of a fun story: The Patriots lost on Saturday night Jan. 4, [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick had his wrap-up news conference the next morning and the players cleaned out their lockers soon thereafter, and as we were all departing the stadium on Sunday someone from the team’s PR staff said, ‘See you all at the Draft in late April.’
A lot of us are walking out thinking it would be a while before we’d be back. Well, two days later I’m walking back through the doors at Gillette Stadium for a report on Patriots special teams coordinator/receivers coach Joe Judge being named Giants head coach. There always seems to be something happening with the Patriots. That said, the pace is nothing close to what it had been like the prior eight years.
[My son] proudly wears his Julian Edelman jersey, and roots for the Patriots, but he told his teacher that he was okay with them losing this year because he knew that meant his Dad would be around more. I melted a little bit when I heard that.
— Mike Reiss, ESPN’s NFL Nation Patriots reporter
What have colleagues said to you about the “streak” and how you’re oddly sort of “free” this time of year?
There are some great text messages to share along those lines from NFL Nation colleagues, notably from those who haven’t had the chance to cover many playoff games. One of my favorites: “If you need any tips on how to handle the month of January with no more games, just give me a buzz. I’m experienced in this regard.” I feel like we have a great rapport in NFL Nation – from the editors to the reporters – and that’s part of what makes working at ESPN so enjoyable.
Have your children, Nathan and Talia, ever known an AFC Championship Sunday when you weren’t working?
This is a career first for Nathan, who is seven. He proudly wears his Julian Edelman jersey, and roots for the Patriots, but he told his teacher that he was OK with them losing this year because he knew that meant his Dad would be around more. I melted a little bit when I heard that. Talia is 10, so she wouldn’t remember it, but the first two years of her life saw a wild-card round loss to the Ravens, and then a divisional-round loss to the Jets.
Gotta ask – handicap Brady returning.
I went with 80 percent in a recent story, but it’s all guesswork at this point. I’m not fully convinced that Brady wants to leave, assuming the Patriots show him some level of appreciation financially and talent-wise around him.
So, I look at it as the football being in the Patriots’ hands and perhaps it’s the sentimental side of me that believes they’ll ultimately say, “This story isn’t supposed to end with Brady in a different uniform.” But when I share that thought, the usual response I get is, “You really think Bill Belichick will be sentimental?” Fair point. Which is part of what makes it all so intriguing.