At the Super Bowl, Cheering for New Orleans

Superdome, New Orleans Superdome, NFL stadium, New Orleans football stadium

Mary Dell writes: The Super Bowl returns to New Orleans on Sunday and I am a lucky holder of a ticket for a seat right next to my husband.  While it’s a business trip for him, not so for me. I admit it: though I love football, my excitement is less the game and more the venue. Instead of picking between the ‘49ers and Ravens, I’ll be cheering for New Orleans.

NOLA and I go way back though it has been decades since I’ve visited. I feel about the city like I do about a distant, somewhat exotic, favorite cousin whom I very rarely see. So it sits in that wispy section of my memory, the part with more shadows than clear lines. It’s lodged with other places I knew well when I was young and have never returned to, like the town where my grandparents lived.

But my New Orleans memories are lively ones. My first time there was on a college road trip taken over a New Year’s Eve weekend.  We attended a party at a friend of a friend’s house Uptown near Audubon Park. The live oaks surrounding the home dripped with Spanish moss. I nibbled on a casserole of oysters and eggplant served out of a silver tureen. There seemed to be no risk of the champagne running dry.

New Orleans architecture, New Orleans street scene

We had tickets for the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett ran through the Georgia Bulldogs defense to lead Pitt to victory and a National Championship. Road trip, party, bowl game – truly, one amazing college weekend.

Two years later I returned to New Orleans but this time on my first job where my beginner’s expense account covered the cost of a hotel room.  It was a welcome bit of luxury after traveling around the Louisiana Bayou touring remote locations on behalf of my oil patch employer. When driving to one company office, housed on a barge docked at a pier, I met a fellow employee. He was marching along with a shotgun over his shoulder looking to bag an alligator he had seen down the road.  He looked at me in my dress-for-success suit and I glanced at his bib overalls, one strap undone. Nothing in the employee manual prepared me for that encounter.

I have one more sweet memory that I cannot resist including, although I was nowhere near the city when it occurred.  New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl last in 2002, four months after 9/11. My husband, again, had tickets and invited not me but my father as his +1.

By this point in his life, my-then 77-year old dad was a little frail and my mother and I fretted about him going. We wondered if he had the stamina to manage all the walking and we anguished over how intense the new security procedures would be.  In every way the trip was an amazing adventure for Dad, teaching me that hovering over an aging parent (who was still quite capable of traveling) was not really necessary or particularly helpful.

New Orleans party, New Orleans streetAnd then, in 2005, Katrina. How can we not all root for NOLA after seeing the terrible sights of death and destruction caused by the storm?  Having just lived through an awful hurricane of our own this fall, Katrina’s force is much more tangible to me now. I’m desperate to replace pictures and TV video of the Superdome, turned decrepit, terrifying shelter, with the sight of a Super Bowl-ready venue.

So, yes, I’m already rooting for New Orleans.  Can’t wait to pack a bag for the Super Bowl and revisit this city, retracing my steps, restocking my memory.



  1. Emily says

    I too have great memories of New Orleans, but have only been there twice. Like you, I went on a college road trip my senior year with my boyfriend who wanted to take me there because of some restaurant in particular. The memory is bittersweet as that boyfriend passed away a few years ago at the age of 45. The second time I went was for a business trip…more great memories of the city. I can barely remember why we were there for work. As for the superbowl, the only reason I will be rooting for the 49’ers is because Jim Harbaugh went to Michigan with me during the same years (and I even had a communications class with him and yes, he participated and raised his hand a lot), so I gotta root for his team! :)

    • says

      Emily, sad about your former boyfriend who died so very young. Hope you can think of the city in happier visits.

  2. says

    I love NOLA too. Hubs and I met at LSU in our early 20’s and spent many weekends in the French Quarter and Uptown at Tipitina’s. A city of great spirit. Enjoy!

    • says

      Amy, didn’t know that you (and your husband) were Tigers! Fun city and had a fantastic time at the SB. Would go back to NOLA any day to explore so much more than great football.

  3. says

    Oh, your post hits a nerve with me.

    Last spring I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit New Orleans. I was chosen, along with 25 other folks around the US, to visit their city for the purpose of assessing the rebirth post Katrina. It was an amazing program. Well worth the read:

    We all know NOLA for her great food, music, Mardi Gras, and fabulous architecture. But what most never see is the great spirit of the people who live and work there. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Because they have survived one of America’s greatest disasters, they are bound together, fighting back with a vengeance – with a ‘no-holds-barred’ attitude! Full creativity unleashed. New business in flooding into that city. Now ranked #3 behind NYC and LA in film production. Entrepreneurship is on fire because of all the tax credits. Oh! if I were young, I would move there in a heartbeat.

    I don’t mean to use this as an ad for the city. . . I just love it that much. As I said, you hit a nerve, I am missing my ‘second home’

    This city is truly a gem.

    • says

      Lisa, having just returned yesterday, I can attest to all you say about how fantastic NOLA is. We sampled just a bit of the food and the arts and, of course, the sports scene and were really excited about all we saw. Given how terrible Katrina was, it is amazing how New Orleans has come roaring back. Everyone who lives there deserves credit.

  4. says

    Sounds like you’re going to have a wonderful weekend, Mary Dell. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but my husband and his siblings and his father went there for Superbowl 1997 – they still talk about what a fabulous time they had watching their beloved Packers!

    • says

      New Orleans put on an amazing Super Bowl and we had a great time. It was a bit unnerving to be in the SuperDome with a power outage but, otherwise, it was fantastic! Your husband and crew must have had a similar memorable time.

  5. says

    This entry really reminds me how travel sparks our journeys on so many levels. We register the wonderful sights and sounds of the physical places we go on our trips and vacations, but on another level we often time travel as well, revisiting people and places as memory does its magic, and twines us through ‘remembrance of things past.’ Enjoy!

    • says

      Sarah, you hit the nail on the head about how traveling connects us to memories as well as the sights. I had a wonderful chance to do both this weekend in NOLA and feel quite fortunate.

  6. says

    Have fun. New Orleans is great! The whole southern LA is interesting. If this was Europe, LA would be another country, so charming and different and exotic!

    • says

      Haralee, I kept thinking of NOLA as being a bit like Paris so your analogy is very apt. I feel like I traveled to a very far-away and somewhat magical place.

  7. says

    i hope you had a wonderful time, mary. great post – what a nice man your husband must be.

    • says

      Sandy, did not want to gush about my husband but his taking my dad to the SB was really very sweet and kind. Earned him many bonus points!