Applauding a Big Easy, Super decision
With apologies to Arizona and South Florida, the two other areas that were worthy candidates for the NFL championship game in 2013, awarding Super Bowl XLVII to New Orleans was the absolute right call by the NFL's owners at the conclusion of their two-day meeting here Tuesday afternoon.
Few cities in this country have experienced the kind of travails visited upon New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The region is struggling to recover from the storm's powerful winds and devastating floods.
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No city deserved the game more. Perhaps no city needed it more.
"It's a great day for our community," New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said.
It was a pretty good day for all NFL fans.
This is the 10th game awarded to New Orleans, which ties it with Miami/South Florida for the honor of playing host to the most Super Bowl contests. It will be the first title game that is played in New Orleans since the Louisiana Superdome was home to Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002.
And 11 years is way too long.
The Super Bowl was made for New Orleans. And as anybody who has attended a championship game there knows, New Orleans was made for the Super Bowl.
Still, the city has experienced urban flight, as thousands of residents affected by Hurricane Katrina have left. Partly as a result of that abandonment, New Orleans also has lived with urban blight in some of its neighborhoods. Playing host to a Super Bowl should address some of the city's lingering problems.
"It won't be all trickle-down," Benson said of the Super Bowl's revenue effect on his beleaguered city, "but it will definitely help. We're a small town and a large town all put together, and I think we can offer people something that no one else can. People are genuinely excited."
From pricey restaurants like Commander's Palace and Mr. B's Bistro, to the many jazz clubs, to the bars on Bourbon Street, to the blackjack tables and roulette wheels at Harrah's Casino downtown, New Orleans is a big-spendin' city.
And most Super Bowl patrons, flush with someone else's money because they are typically on an expense account, are big spenders.
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The Superdome definitely needs upgrading, and the state has approved $85 million in fixes for the stadium. The improvements -- including additional seating, suites and other amenities to help the Saints generate revenue -- are expected to be completed in time for the Super Bowl. Those improvements will help New Orleans signal to the world that the city is hanging an "Open for Business" sign on its doors. The rest pretty much takes care of itself.
Sure, it is a poor town, and was long before Katrina came ashore. But it is also a party town, and anyone who's ever attended a Super Bowl will tell you the game is a weeklong party.
Because the city is so compact, all of the key hotels, including those housing the two teams, are usually within walking distance of each other. The game is for revelers.
Where better to revel, to transform an area into a frenetic festival, than on Bourbon Street?
It would be na´ve to suggest that post-Katrina New Orleans is the same city it was before the flood laid waste to many of the neighborhoods. But it would also be incredibly short-sighted to believe that New Orleans won't in turn invest much of the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from the game into remaking itself.
There are many who believe that -- given New Orleans' myriad problems and the dramatic need for a makeover -- commissioner Roger Goodell long ago should have awarded New Orleans a Super Bowl by acclamation and as a matter of social conscience. The NFL has a certain protocol for awarding Super Bowl sites and rules are rules, so the league -- its feelings for New Orleans aside -- never took that unprecedented step.
League owners righted that Tuesday afternoon, returning the game to a city that many feel could function as its permanent home.
Great move, owners.
As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bon temps rouler.
Let the good times roll.
Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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