Next Sunday, when the New York Giants and the New England Patriots meet in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, the 26th president of the Professional Football Writers of America will be covering the game for The Buffalo News.
That's Mark Gaughan, who last February was elected to the post, a high honor for him and for The News. His election made The News the first paper to have three staffers to serve as presidents of the national, 250-member organization, with former News columnists Larry Felser and Vic Carucci preceding him, in 1971 and 1993, respectively.
A 1983 graduate of Buffalo State College, Gaughan joined The Buffalo News as a full-time employee in 1984. He has covered the Buffalo Bills since 1988 and became a beat writer in 1992. Gaughan is serving a two-year term as head of the PFWA, which promotes and fights for access to NFL personnel so that reporters can better do their jobs for the public.
Gaughan is honored by the position -- and, simultaneously, looking forward to covering the Super Bowl itself. It will be his 17th.
"I think this year's game is a great matchup," says Gaughan. "New England can enhance its case for being one of the greatest teams ever, but the Giants have just the kind of team that gives the Pats the most trouble."
Buffalo readers, says Gaughan, "are both fascinated and frustrated by the success of New England, and in particular, coach Bill Belichick, who keeps building a case for being the greatest coach of all time."
Senior sports columnist Jerry Sullivan will be on the scene with Gaughan, his first trip to the Super Bowl since 2006. (This will be his last assignment before having hip replacement surgery -- a move that will take him out of the paper and off our website for a few weeks. But, his many fans will be glad to know, he will be back.)
Executive Sports Editor Lisa Wilson laid out the plan, and the rationale, for this year's News coverage of the big game: "Sending Mark and Sully allows us to give readers the same comprehensive NFL coverage we provide during the Bills season."
The two staffers will write news stories, features and notebooks leading up to the game, as well as daily posts on the BillBoard blog and the Sully on Sports blog. They'll also provide a game analysis, column, quarterly report and more in next Monday's paper.
Meanwhile, here in Buffalo, Jay Skurski, who hosts the popular Bills Live game-day chat at buffalonews.com, will be chatting from Buffalo before, during and after the game.
In addition, Gaughan and Sullivan also will report on former Bills wide receiver Andre Reed, who is once again a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012 will be announced the day before the Super Bowl.
Gaughan, a Hall of Fame voter, will provide insight on the voting process.
Although it's a lot of work, with plenty of deadline stress built in, Gaughan says he's looking forward to next Sunday's challenges.
"No matter how many times you go to the Super Bowl, it's still a pinch-yourself kind of experience," he says.
He recalled covering his first Super Bowl in 1991 -- yes, the heartbreaking "wide right" Bills loss to the New York Giants.
"Writers for the teams participating generally get some of the better seats in the press box. I remember walking into the press box in Tampa, and my right foot was on one side of the 50-yard line and my left foot was on the other. I thought, 'This is better than digging ditches.' "
He and Sullivan will get a chance to do it again next Sunday, and News readers will reap the benefits.
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