This week the Naborhood has taken up residence in the Super City—New Orleans. A week much more than football. Its a melting pot of media types, fans from both coasts and events for all ages. For many the week leading up to the game is more fun to cover than the game itself. Recent history has given us better games but the week leading up never disappoints—this week was no exception. Here are my thoughts from a Big time in the Big Easy.

A PERFECT 10 : Only Miami has hosted a Super Bowl as many times as New Orleans who is taking its 10th crack as Super Host. There is no place in the country like New Orleans. They will be glad to tell you that and it ain’t bragging if you can back it up. Its been 11 years since they’re last crack at hosting a Super Bowl but the Big Easy made it look Easy. What amazes me is the full court press it put on the past month. I remember flying out of here following the Saints last game of the seaaon on New Year’s Eve and the airport was not ready to roll in fact the brand new rent a car complex looked a long long way from being game ready. But low and behold—-a month later everything changed. I flew in this week and wondered if I was entering the wrong airport—part of the charm of a city that always turns things around despite all of its distractions.

The media is cynical where they love to pick apart everything and that includes Super Bowl Host cities but I haven’t heard a peep about New Orleans in fact I’ve heard many say they should keep the game here or at least get it back in the rotation more often. The accessibility, the food and the flair of this city served notice to everyone around the country that in this post-Katrina world and despite all of its problems with crime and infrastructure—they are back in business.

STAR GAZING: I’m not a big fan of celebrity watching but its funny who you run into during Super Bowl week. Its much more than former NFL greats who dominate the scene and the streets of Super Bowl Week. A few out of the box sightings for me walking around Radio Row and New Orleans were John Schnatter better known as Papa John (yeah Papa was in the house??!!) but that was merely an appetizer. You had one of my favorites Frank Caliendo but the most unusual site was watching New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu dancing with the original Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd on stage at one of the many parties.

HAR-BROS: Sorry Ray Lewis, this was the most intriguing storyline of the week for me. The Brothers Harbaugh did the impossible this week–they superceded the Brothers Manning on their own home turf. Talking to Archie Manning, I believe a big part of him was relieved—didn’t have to worry about tickets this year! It was great to see the press conference with Jim and John’s parents as they were truly enjoying the week and taking it all in—what a great story.

The funny thing about these brothers are the differences between them. John wears a coat and tie to the pressers, Jim wears a cap and sweatshirt. John puts up with the media, Jim deals with us like he’s undergoing a root canal. It was revealing when both brothers had a joint press conference this week and Jim really acted like the little brother as he was deferring to big brother on a number of subjects. Its an unusual circumstance–something we may never see again.

ROGER—ROGER! The most unpopular man in New Orleans this week is without a doubt NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell but at least the commish isn’t backtracking and is showing a sense of humor. In his state of the union presser he didn’t back off any of his Saints Bounty-Gate rulings where he maintained the evidence proves a Bounty program was in place for three years. Saints fans might tend to agree if only they could see more of the evidence???

Goodell says he’s had a warm reception even though he has noticed the Mardi Gras floats that have mocked him along with the VooDoo dolls and the restaurants with signs that won’t serve him. There is a strong sector of the city that still feels loyalty to the Commissioner and for good reason—-he along with Paul Tagliabue are a big reason the team is still in New Orleans and made sure the Superdome was ready for the 2006 season—–the home fans should remember that but I understand when it comes to the Commish—its a what have you done for me lately world.

HALL OF FAME: My main problem with Hall of Fame voting in every sport—let’s stop being so sensitive. We are voting on these guys’ athletic accomplishments not their people skills. If that was the case Warren Sapp wouldn’t get any votes. He was by far the rudest player I have ever covered but he is one of the best defensive tackles in history so he’s an easy first ballot Hall of Fame guy. Remember voters—-the vote is for Hall of Fame players not Hall of Fame people even though often we wish they were both.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: OK I had the Ravens in this game (see previous blogs) but I have learned not to bet against the Niners. I applaud Jim Harbaugh for having the guts to pull the trigger on Colin Kaepernick but thought they would lose against Green Bay and would fall in Atlanta. I thought this despite the fact that the Niners are the most impressive and physical team I have seen in person the past two years. I witnessed them dismantle a Super Bowl ready Saints team in the playoffs a year ago. The San Fran D picked apart Brees in the Superdome earlier this season where the young Kaepernick refused to let a Superdome crowd shake him. Most people I have talked to here in New Orleans are picking the Ravens but I take the younger Harbaugh and the left coasters in this one.

How about Niners over Ravens 27-24 with much maligned kicker David Akers with the game winner…11 years after some guy named Vinatieri did the trick for the Patriots over the Rams here in the Big Easy—it will be Deja VuDoo all over again—see what I did there…..

EXTRA POINT: What will the weather be like in New Jersey this time next year for Super Bowl 48??????





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