It’s a glorious 77 degrees and sunny in New Orleans as I write this. The city is bustling, preparing to host the Super Bowl, smack dab in between a couple of weekends of Mardi Gras revelry.
New Orleans will be hosting its 10th Super Bowl this weekend, pushing it into a tie with Miami as the location where the most Super Bowls have been played.
And nearly everywhere I turn, I am hearing talking heads — radio show hosts, TV personalities and newspaper/internet columnists — arguing that the Big Easy should be named the permanent host site to the Super Bowl.
The abundance of hotels near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is one reason. That there are 22,000 hotel rooms within one mile of the stadium is a fact that is cited. The fact that the two teams — in this case the 49ers and Ravens — are able to stay in the downtown area, making for easy access to team sessions for the press is also a plus, media types reason. I can’t argue with that. The long bus rides to far-flung team hotels is often a drag during Super Bowl week, but it’s of no importance to the people that really matter in all of this — NFL fans and the residents of the host cities.
Then there’s the presence of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the home of a non-stop party. It’s a wild and crazy scene, full of fun of all types. I spent an hour traipsing around the beer-soaked streets on Sunday night, carefully trying to avoid being knocked over the beer-filled tourists who had obviously spent the better part of the day taking in the atmosphere, and maybe a Hurricane or two. The area will swarm with 49ers and Ravens fans later in the week, as ticketholders finally arrive in town.
I’ve previously seen what Bourbon Street looks like during Super Bowl week while covering the Packers and Patriots in SB XXXI following the 1996 season. It was the first Super Bowl I covered, and it is something I will never forget.
New Orleans also has great food and music, seemingly everywhere, all the time.
Despite all that the New Orleans has going for it — and it has come a long way since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005 — I can’t get behind the "Make New Orleans the permanent Super Bowl site" movement.
The Super Bowl as a travelling road show is the way to continue. Spread the wealth, I say. The local economies of the cities that host the big game get a big shot in the arm. It would be unfair to continuously reward just one city.
The league has successfully used the carrot-and-stick approach with Super Bowls and new stadiums. Would the Colts be playing in a beautiful new stadium in Indianapolis without the possibility of the city being rewarded with hosting an NFL title game? Probably not. The same can be said for Detroit, Arizona and Dallas.
You know that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is willing to sink hundreds of millions of his own dollars into renovating Sun Life Stadium so that the Miami area will again get a game. San Francisco is in the running for Super Bowl L because it will have a brand-spanking-new stadium, which will benefit 49ers fans for decades. It’s a safe bet that the Twin Cities will make a push to host a second Super Bowl in Minnesota once the Vikings open their new stadium in a few years.
And then there’s the first Northeastern Super Bowl, to be played next February in New Jersey. The billion-dollar stadium that is home to the Jets and Giants will the first to host an outdoor Super Bowl at a cold-weather site. While some may argue that braving potentially freezing temperatures to watch the big game could be unpleasant, I side with Roger Goodell on this one when he argues that football is designed to be played in elements.
New Orleans always does a great of hosting Super Bowls, even if it hasn’t produced very many compelling games. Only one of the nine previous title games played here has been decided by fewer than 10 points — Patriots 20, Rams 17 in No. XXXVI, the last time the game was held here.
But the NFL shouldn’t get caught up in the love affair with Nola this week and needs to maintain the status quo with keeping Super Bowls sprinkled across the nation in a variety of cities. It’s a policy that is for the good of the cities that get to play host, and for the good of the game.