It has been said that there are two ways to get the media on your side - free stuff and great food. That seems like a reduction in the cognitive skills of said journalists, but in fairness, if they are going to combine the two into "free great food" then, we might have a situation where the tractor beam certainly locks on and never let's us loose.
And, given the fact that last night, the city of New Orleans has let loose on the greatest Super Bowl party that I have ever been subject to, filled with 50 of the city's finest restaurants bringing their proudest dishes for hundreds of media types, you would think that someone like me might be affected by that and now willing to give this city a fine review because of a full and happy belly.
Well, you would be wrong;
For, I was already celebrating the greatness of New Orleans before I consumed my first crawfish last night.
After 11 years away from New Orleans, we are back in maybe the finest Super Bowl city of them all. Sunday, New Orleans will host its 10th giant game, pulling even with Miami for the leader in SB cities, and now that I have been attending these weeks for 12 years, I feel I am now at least sort of qualified to rate them.
And the best I have been to seem to generally revolve around those two cities and San Diego for certain built-in advantages they have that Indianapolis or Detroit just cannot compete with. I want to attempt to keep an open mind about the New York City Super Bowl we are being asked to deal with next season, but let's be honest: the forefathers of the Super Bowl did not intend for winter coats to be part of the equation, as they put the first several Super Bowls in Los Angeles, Miami, and New Orleans. Even in the 1960s, this was not hard to compute that in the dead of winter, the teams, their fans, and the whole world would love to find an excuse to to arrive down south and consider the possibility of short sleeves in late January/early February.
Of course, back then, it was more like mid-January, but you get the idea. There was a reason that Green Bay and Chicago were never considered, so why they are getting stadiums approved with the condition that Indianapolis, Detroit, and New York would also get to host their big day in the sun seems absurd for a sport that doesn't need add-ons like this to be successful.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans hard in 2005, and the stadium itself, the Super Dome was converted into a temporary refuge for tens of thousands of people who had no other place to go. They weren't worried about hosting a Super Bowl for years because they were simply trying to preserve the future of their city. But now, in early 2013, this event is in some ways a huge milestone that things have fully recovered and the city is now at maximum levels of entertainment and energy.
From a Cowboys standpoint, New Orleans has been the site of some fantastic days, including the time the Cowboys went from being "next year's champion" to being the undisputed champ in Super Bowl VI. It was in New Orleans where they finally were able to close the deal with Roger Staubach and Duane Thomas doing the heavy lifting on offense and Bob Griese being chased down by Bob Lilly for a sack that has been shown on NFL Films a million times. Instead of living in disappointments after season ending-losses to Green Bay, Cleveland, and Baltimore, they finally stood on top of the world with their their heads high after crushing Miami, 24-3, cementing the relationship between your Cowboys and New Orleans for ever.
If that wasn't enough, the Cowboys came back 6 years later and played in the 1st ever Super Bowl played indoors in the Crescent City, and were able to enjoy the benefits of the Denver Broncos being a generous turnover machine, as the Cowboys won easily over the Broncos and their former QB Craig Morton, 27-10.
So, you can see that when you attend 5 Super Bowls, but have you heart broken 3 times in Miami, but win big both visits to New Orleans, that the Cowboys certainly enjoyed their adventures here back in the day.
They have never returned to the big game here, as their chances at Super Bowl 31 and the end of the triplets dynasty ended in Carolina in a year where Brett Favre returned home to win his one and only Super Bowl. The Cowboys other 3 SB titles were in 4 short years in the early 90's, of course, in Pasadena (which hasn't hosted since), Atlanta (also hosted Super Bowl 34), and Tempe (not hosted since, although Glendale did host Super Bowl 42 and will also host Super Bowl 49).
New Orleans also has crowned the Steelers (SB 9), the Raiders (SB 15), the Bears (SB 20), the 49ers (SB 24), and was the site for the very first title of the Patriots era (SB 36), which, ahem, included that video-taping accusation of the Rams workouts as you may recall.
What makes New Orleans great is pretty difficult to narrow down. Obviously, it is a city that is made for entertaining its guests. It is prepared to do so with a downtown that is compacted together so that "walking distance" is always an option. There are hundreds or restaurants and more hotels than you could ever need all right there on top of the places you want to be.
This can be taken for granted unless you have ever stayed in Georgia and had to drive in to Jacksonville each day of the Super Bowl week, or had nice long drives all over Detroit, Indianapolis, or yes, our fair city of Dallas-Fort Worth. Centrally located? "What is that?"is a question that was clearly not asked much when laying out the metroplex for a visitor's benefit. We have learned to deal with it, but the visitor notices that every attraction is 40 minutes from the others. Well, when you compare it to New Orleans, that has everything within 1-mile in any direction, the differences are obvious.
This is also a city that was packed with civic pride long before Katrina made her acquaintance. Now, since the city was beaten up pretty badly, civic pride oozes everywhere. The people that live here love this place, and want you to give it a chance to do the same. Not exactly some of the other cities where the residents cannot wait for the Super Bowl to hurry up and get out of here so we can go back to our lives.
I hadn't been back here since the 2003 Final Four, when Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse took down Kansas in a Final Four that also featured Dwyane Wade and TJ Ford. Before that, it seemed we were always coming here for something.
But, I am here to report that this city has it going on and is quite alive and well. And as a few of us spoiled media types were discussing our annual pilgrimages to the biggest week on the NFL calendar, it did cross my mind again that if the league wanted to simply rotate the game on a basis of cities that are perfect for this event, it would go back to how Lamar Hunt and friends laid things out a long, long time ago: Miami, Los Angeles/San Diego, and New Orleans.
It might seem unfair to the Clevelands and Seattles of the world that they never get their turn, but let's be honest: Some cities were made for weeks like this.
And clearly, New Orleans is one of them.
I will try not to eat all of the food while I am here.