GLENDALE, Ariz. — Super Bowl 57 is all about connections. There’s Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his former role with the Eagles, the brother versus brother story with Travis and Jason Kelce. There’s also a KC connection with the home of this year’s Super Bowl and the press box at State Farm Stadium.
The press box entryway is big and impressive, fitting perhaps for the man it memorializes, Steve Schoenfeld, and his big presence in so many lives. Arizona Republic sports columnist Kent Somers built an 18-year friendship with Schoenfeld, who joined the paper in 1988 to cover the NFL.
“He was such a people person. He had nice things to say to everybody or had a way to connect with everybody,” Somers said.
Long before his arrival in Phoenix, Schoenfeld called Overland Park home, graduating from Shawnee Mission South in 1973. He attended the University of Kansas for a journalism degree, falling in love with his Jayhawks.
From there he went to Tulsa, where he fell in love with Robin Finton. She recalled one of their first dates, a Tulsa Hurricanes football game.
“I was like, ‘Why are they kicking the ball?’ and he was like, ‘You have a lot to learn,” she recounted.
She did learn, and fell in love, too. Their football journeys would take them to Dallas, then Phoenix, where Schoenfeld continued to cover the NFL and the Cardinals, but always with an eye on Jayhawk basketball.
Somers and Robin described him as a fervent fan with high standards, perhaps a little too high at times.
“I used to tease him all the time, you know, they would be ranked number one in the country…. ‘They’re not that good, they’re overrated,’” Somers said of Schoenfeld’s KU standards.
Schoenfeld was not overrated, racking up bylines, awards, and friends, until an October 2000 night in Tempe. His life was cut short as he was walking to his car on the Arizona State campus, struck by a hit-and-run driver. His loss was tremendous for family, friends, colleagues, and the NFL.
His loss was felt in the Cardinals organization from the Bidwell ownership family down, where Schoenfeld had made personal and professional connections.
“I went to Cardinals practice the next day, there was just, even there, there was a pall not only on the newsroom, but on the practice field and in the locker room,” Somers described.
The Cardinals turned sadness into a celebration of Schoenfeld’s big life, dedicating the press box in his honor, and decorating the entryway with photos and clippings in his memory. Robin remembered the first time she saw it.
“Oh my God, something I never would have imagined,” she said.
At KU, the School of Journalism and Pro Football Writers of America launched a scholarship for an aspiring sportswriter in his honor.