Just before the Seattle Seahawks were slated to appear at Super Bowl Media Day, figure skater Johnny Weir, in a crimson suit and jeweled necklace, walked toward the entrance and put his Louis Vuitton bag on the sidewalk for the police dog to sniff.
Once inside, he joined his partner in commentary, fellow skater Tara Lipinski, and the two attempted to get a question to Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, over the dozens of other reporters assembled. They kept trying, but other reporters shouted over them.
"I don't think we fit in here," Lipinski said. "People are very aggressive."
One of the most enjoyable pairs to comment on figure skating, Weir and Lipinski will be part of NBC's pregame festivities on Super Bowl Sunday in Glendale, Arizona. They will be reporting from the official NFL tailgate party for VIP guests.
Here is the tension: putting this duo in one of the most hetero-normal environments there might be, where beer and erectile dysfunction ads target the men in the audience -- not the women who generally tune into the Olympics.
"Just walking in here today, we both said, 'Wow, the energy feels so different than anything we've ever done,'" Lipinski said.
"Very testosterone-filled," Weir added.
It was just two years ago that Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers sparked a backlash on media day by saying the NFL wouldn't accept a gay player.
Fast-forward, and on Tuesday, Weir and his pompadour and heeled shoes were part of the festivities. Weir even confided in one reporter that he had a crush on Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Then with faux shock, "Can I say that?"
Oh, yes, you can, Johnny.
Beneath his cheeky remarks, the openly gay skater had some serious comments about the NFL and homosexuality -- two things that have not seemed to go well together at all.
"I think the NFL has done an amazing job with gay athletes and being open to gay athletes," Weir said. "It's the same as any sport. We're judged on the same field, we're judged on the same quality that we bring to the game and to the sport. I'm proud of the NFL for the stance that they've taken on Michael Sam and being awesome. The gays have to produce a good player."
They probably already have -- and probably more than one -- but the closet door isn't completely open. Remember: Weir went to Russia as a skating analyst after the country made it a crime to spread what it called homosexual propaganda.
"If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention and for people to lobby against this law," Weir told CBS at the time, "then I'm willing to take it."
Weir's candor might just be what draws some nontraditional fans to the broadcast, but the chemistry with Lipinski is novel and smart. They have taken their act to the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby, and Weir and Lipinski will provide a different kind of football commentary.
"It's a huge event," Lipinski said. "And the game we have nothing to do with. It's fun, it's lighthearted, we're doing the preshow, interviewing the people who come down the carpet, doing fun features, just a good laugh."
Here's how it went down when they finally got Chancellor's attention.
Lipinski: "If you had to design a costume for the Legion of Boom what would it be?"
Chancellor: "Something with a warrior outfit or something. Some warriors."
Chancellor: "No sparkles. It would be fierce. Nothing wrong with [sparkles], but not for the Legion of Boom."
Back at their hotel room, Weir and Lipinski joked that they have a chalkboard covered with X's and O's. They struck a Heisman pose. But really, all they need to be entertaining on Super Bowl Sunday is themselves.
Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski talked with USA TODAY Sports at Super Bowl media day about their football knowledge and why they love New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Posted by Angie on Thursday, January 28, 2014
As a former Olympic skater, Tara Lipinski is in her element when there is ice on the ground. But when she’s ready to thaw out, there’s one spot where she loves to go.
As part of TODAY’s original series, “At Home with TODAY,” the gold medalist and ice skating announcer opened the door to her Manhattan home to show us where she loves to relax when she’s on the East Coast — in her living room.
“It’s so cozy,” Tara said. “When it’s snowing, I come in and have the fireplace and the big couch with blankets.”
If there was ever a space made for cozying up, this tranquil brown-and-blue living room is it. From the deep leather sofa — which required a specialist to take it apart in order to move it up Tara’s narrow stairwell — to the wall of classic books that Tara picked up from New York’s famous Strand Book Store, it’s easy to see why this room is one of the Texas native’s preferred escapes.
When the fashionista purchased the home four years ago, she enlisted her mother to help decorate the charming space.
“She is the real designer in the family,” Tara said. “I’m learning from her.”
The decorating duo started with the rustic coffee table that sits in the center of the room, a find from Restoration Hardware, and used that as inspiration as they chose other pieces.
“I still have a very romantic style,” Tara said. “I really like mixing the metals, the leather, the wood and that unfinished look.”
Although raised in Texas, Tara spends her time bouncing between the Lone Star State, California, South Carolina and her New York home when she’s not traveling to be a commentator at skating competitions.
“I’m kind of all over the place,” Tara said.
But globetrotting has had its perks as Tara and her mom have visited various antique shops throughout the world, picking up old books, letters and other accessories that add a vintage touch to her home.
In one corner of the living room is an antique frame that they painted white, and — with some help from Tara’s dad — hung on the wall with an old book placed in the center.
“It was one of our arts and crafty moments,” Tara joked.
And the room isn’t just for relaxing — the Olympian has also put in long hours of work here, prepping for her commentating duties at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with her partner-in-crime Johnny Weir. In the weeks prior to the Olympics, Tara spent hours holed up in her living room studying up on competing athletes and the games: “My whole commentating career, it sort of started in that room.”
Posted by Angie on Thursday, January 28, 2014
Go behind the scenes with Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, as the two discuss figure skater fashion with guests like Gracie Gold and more.