By Nick Perenick
Kyle Belanger was fortunate enough to spend the week leading up to the Super Bowl in a crowded food court in one of the coldest cities in the Upper Midwest. While that might sound miserable to many, he was in his element as a radio personality and worker.
This is the fourth consecutive year that Belanger, a professor in the Communications/Sports Journalism major, has traveled to Radio Row, an event that hosts over one hundred radio stations and outlets leading up to the Super Bowl. This year, Minneapolis stationed the week-long radio festivities in the food court of the Mall of America, an unusual location compared to the convention centers and arenas in the past. This year 112 crews were jammed into the food court of a mall that had 60,000 visitors a day, and, as one could imagine, security was a nightmare and comfort in your workspace was next to impossible. Many football stars and big Hollywood names were kept away and handicapped people such as the Wounded Warrior football team, were unable to fully participate due to the lack of accessibility.
While at radio row, Belanger was able to work right alongside with retired stars and sporting greats such as US soccer gold medalist Briana Scurry, retired NFL player and radio personality Bob Golic, Hall of Famer Charles Haley, ESPN college football analyst Todd McShay, and more. Belanger said that while these athletes and analysts love to talk football, they also like conversing as normal people about normal things such as parenthood, life after football and other topics.
During Super Bowl week it’s easy for anyone to get starstruck, but for Belanger the event is not limited to talking to celebrities, but rather taking in the experience with good friends.
“Early in a journalism career it’s easy to get hung up in names of people you hang around with,” he said. “Being able to take people who have done remarkable things, people who were a big part of events we remember so well, and pick their brains can be big for them as well.”
This year, Belanger put the Humanics philosophy into action by yet again volunteering at the Wounded Warrior Amputee football game at Concordia University. Minnesota legends Robert Smith, Ron Jaworski and Gus Frerotte and more played against veterans such as Mike Smith, a paralympic gold medalist and the only below the elbow active member of the military.
Belanger calls this year’s Wounded Warriors football game the ‘most rewarding’. While generally they are able to draw in a crowd of up to 10,000 people, the event drew 2,500 in attendance. Boy Scouts, youth football groups and families still showed their full support.
“The atmosphere around it was more electric than ever and we were able to touch a lot of people,” said Belanger. The game touched more than just those inside the dome stadium, as it reached ABC national news that night as well.
Next year, the plan is for Belanger to make the trip to Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta for Super Bowl LLIII. “Atlanta has all of the makings for a great Super Bowl since its a city built on holding conventions and has a great cultural vibe. Whether the Super Bowl being in the north or south, Kyle will be sure to make timeless memories doing what he does best.