First, to dispense with the formalities... NAILED IT!
My-Sugar-Na and I spent a few days in New Orleans just after Mardi Gras in February 2005... pre-Katrina. Obviously, we didn't know that the New Orleans that we saw would go to hell only a few months later, and we did the usual tourist stuff... French Quarter on Friday night, found a jazz band and listened in for an hour or so, Mississippi River lunch cruise on Saturday afternoon, few moments in the casino, back to the French Quarter with Grap and Ray Sunshine to buy a beer from a guy at a card table in the middle of the street and to learn the true joy which is a Horny Gator, and then once the hangover wore off, a trip along the Mississippi River Road from Baton Rouge to New Orleans for a tour of Mardi Gras World.
And though when I reflect on that trip (with my second best Nationals performance ever despite a nasty cold I had brought with me from home) and many memories percolate to the surface, the thing that really stuck with me was how off-kilter the whole thing is... the French names and accents, the Voodoo crap, the "Boobies for Beads" in the French Quarter, plantations all over, "parishes" instead of "counties" and as Quebec would rather seceed from Canada so to it seemed like New Orleans would prefer to be its own country. But that was the cool part about it.
No need to rehash what Hurricane Katrina did to the region (one of the best photos that my wife ever took was of a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico from the shoreline in Biloxi, MS. A couple of days after the storm, we learned that the exact spot from which she took the photo was now a half-mile into the Gulf). Despite the continued help of Mayor Ray Nagin, New Orleans has been steadily coming back to being a vibrant city. The French Quarter itself was mainly unscathed, but there wasn't much of a city to draw tourists at first. But now almost five years later, it appears that tourism is on the rebound.
Enter the New Orleans Saints. Fate linked the Saints with the recovery of the city. The Superdome was used for (and was almost destroyed because it was) shelter for tens of thousands of people. Even though they were still called the New Orleans Saits, they split their home season between San Antonio and Baton Rouge. There were some rumblings that the Saints may leave town, either because the Superdome would be to costly to renovate, or because there would no longer be enough residents to support the team (both in ticket sales and broadcast revenue).
But the team made a committment to the city. In return, the city fell in love with their football team again. Sunday night, the residents were rewarded with their first Super Bowl victory. Congratulations to the team, but more importantly, congratulations to the city, too.
The Packers played in the Super Bowl in New Orleans in January 1997, and I have a cool baseball cap. Marquette played in the Final Four in New Orleans in March 2003, and I have a cool baseball cap for that, too. Maybe I'll pony up and get this year's cap, too.
The Saints Super Bowl victory, and seeing how cool the city looks, makes me that much more antsier to get back there when the Nationals return to Baton Rouge in 2012. I am sure there will be a Horny Gator with my name on it.
In the run up to the Super Bowl, they had become the sentimental pick for many. Lots of stories on the networks and in the pregame shows about the city and how it has overcome the hurricane, and how much left there is to go. But the Colts were favored because apparently too many bettors forgot lost track of the fact that the Saints are a hell of a football team.