Day 5 of the series and Leg 4 of the road trip to the 2005 Super Bowl, 543 miles from San Antonio to New Orleans — part of the 2,431 miles across Interstate 10 from Ontario, Calif., to Jacksonville.
From February 3, 2005
NEW ORLEANS — The party is already here.
How come the Super Bowl is not?
New Orleans was made for the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl was made for New Orleans.
Let’s see … great food, high-end hotels, jazz clubs, street artists, strip joints, regular folks in the streets acting crazy for a string of beads, Snoop Dog filming another volume of “Girls Gone Wild” … and mixed drinks sold by the quart.
Isn’t that what the Super Bowl is about? Eating till you hurl? Drinking till you pass out? Someone flashing, as best you recall?
Heck yeah. And we would have said the same even before that $9 Hurricane we bought out of 55-gallon drum down by Jackson Square. A healthful, vitamin-C-fortified cocktail made, we’re told, with 151 rum, white rum and 100 percent pure juice of some red sort.
But it was watered down, so we didn’t even notice the alcohol. Really.
(Hey, who moved the curb?)
We pulled into the Big Easy after another grueling day on the I-10. More truckers, less highway than at any point in our journey. Lots of narrow bridges over Louisiana’s endless bayous. Lots of impatient guys in semi-trailers.
With a cold Hurricane numbing your hand and brain, music blasting out of the clubs and everybody in the street (from randy collegians to giddy senior citizens) in some sort of chemically altered state … anxiety? What anxiety?
On a cool Wednesday night, we first rambled around the Vieux Carre. The party was warming up as the temperatures went down. We asked a palm reader if she knew who was going to win the Super Bowl on Sunday. “If I did,” she said, “I would be in Las Vegas and not out here freezing my ass off.” Some aspects of the occult are impenetrable.
We did the tourist thing by buying some beads, postcards and a T-shirt with the upside-down message: “If You Can Read This, Put Me Back On My Bar Stool.” Seemed like a good idea, at the time.
Sure, it’s kitschy and noisy and wasteful and silly. But so is the Super Bowl.
The NFL should play its big game in one of three places. Only. Miami, Southern California or New Orleans. Lots of lodging, restos and entertainment and nice weather.
The league has been here nine times but the last visit was 2001 and no more are scheduled. After Jacksonville (zzzz) this weekend, the SB next goes to Detroit (brrr), Miami (OK) and Arizona (zzzz).
When is it New Orleans’ turn again?
You ask that while watching beaming tourists taking French Quarter tours in hansom cabs.
You ask that while savoring shrimp creole, jambalaya, red beans and rice and a bottle of Turbodog stout at the Gumbo Shop, a cozy Saint Peter Street bistro.
You ask that while gawking at the performance-artist cowboy (and his two dogs, in hats and sunglasses) in silver face paint who isn’t moving a muscle in the middle of Bourbon Street.
Turns out, New Orleans could not handle the Super Bowl this year even if the NFL asked. So there.
Christianity’s solemn Lenten season begins next Wednesday, and Mardi Gras shifts into high gear here on Friday night — so that everyone can get their sinning out of the way by midnight Tuesday. Local folks being very religious, see.
Sunday, New Orleans probably won’t even remember the Patriots and Eagles are playing. The ultra-rowdy Bacchus Parade is that night, and down here tourists will be blowing kisses at transvestites on floats at the very moment Terrell Owens is testing his ankle.
Maybe we will get to Jacksonville and discover it is north Florida’s Party Central.
And maybe New Orleans will embrace Prohibition.
New Orleans and the NFL on the outs is really too bad for players, fans and high-living corporate types more interested in indulging than spectating.
In New Orleans, the Superdome is within staggering distance of Bourbon Street. So are something like 30,000 hotel rooms. (Jacksonville has 1,600.)
New Orleans has so many good restaurants, if you can’t get into Commander’s Palace … well, you will just have to suffer at one of its other 999 fine eateries.
The NFL is avoiding New Orleans for a reason. The hometown Saints have become designated the “shaky NFL franchise that might move to Los Angeles”, following in the footsteps of the Seahawks, Cardinals, Chargers, etc.
The “shaky franchise” doesn’t get a Super Bowl until the NFL has extorted a new building from the city fathers.
New Orleans hasn’t coughed up the cash yet. Perhaps because the Superdome is still perfectly serviceable. Perhaps because they know fans would clamor to come here even if the game were played on a Mississippi River barge.
Super Bowl, Jacksonville? Can we stay here and watch it on TV? Or maybe have it on the TV back in the room while we gape at the Bacchus Parade? As another T-shirt message reads: “Better Take a Picture Cuz You Won’t Remember in the Morning”.
Next: To Tallahassee, 383 miles