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Super Bowl XLVII
San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Sunday, Feb. 3; Kickoff: 5:25 p.m.
The late Pete Rozelle loved New Orleans.
He loved the restaurants. He loved the people. He loved the fawning red carpet that the city would always roll out for him.
He even loved that creaking monument to rust, old Tulane Stadium, home of the Sugar Bowl and, as I recall, exactly 32 known parking spaces.
When Rozelle and the NFL owners made the decision to send their championship game on the road, there was little objection raised when the commissioner eagerly endorsed the New Orleans bid.
The date was Jan. 11, 1970, and it was far from a Chamber of Commerce afternoon. At the time, New Orleans represented the northernmost city ever to host the big game.
It was jacket weather. Skies were dreary. Showers during the week had made the Tulane field soggy.
Perfect conditions, as it turned out, for Hank Stram's Kansas City Chiefs to call the timely 65 Toss Power Trap -- immortalized forever by NFL Films because of the miked-up Stram's gleeful narrative.
This month's game is scheduled to feature Beyoncé at halftime. Previous Super Bowls in New Orleans have starred U2, ZZ Top and James Brown.
Super Bowl IV's star attraction, alas, was actress Carol Channing, who somehow worked Hello Dolly into a salute to Mardi Gras.
The pregame festivities were supposed to feature a hot-air balloon race, a Rozelle idea, but one of the balloons never gained altitude and crashed into the end-zone bleachers.
"Just like the Saints," my uncle noted.
But the tradition was born. As Super Bowl host, New Orleans and its round-the-clock welcome mat were a rousing success.
Two years later, the big game would return, and the victorious Dallas Cowboys would carry off Tom Landry on their shoulders.
There were no balloon crashes at Super Bowl VI. But succeeding Super Bowls in New Orleans have always seemed to inspire random misbehavior or aborted liftoffs.
Before Super Bowl XX, Bears quarterback Jim McMahon displayed his Southern exposure to a news helicopter that was hovering over the Chicago practice field.
At Super Bowl XXXI, New England coach Bill Parcells and owner Robert Kraft aired their dirty laundry for all to see. Parcells left the Patriots five days after the game.
Super Bowl IX, played in January 1975, was supposed to be first to be held in the new, $163 million Louisiana Superdome. But construction delays forced the NFL to return to decaying Tulane Stadium one more time.
Some of us remember the bleak day better than others. I was a college student helping the NFL PR crew in Tulane's mausoleum-like press box. By game's end, the temperature had dropped into the 30s.
Our task was to collate 1,000 copies of the game's 30-page play-by-play booklet. So we formed a long assembly line and began, frozen hands and all.
By booklet No. 600 or so, the paper cuts were starting to leave blood-stained thumb prints on the Bud Grant quote sheets. The guy in front of me had a white man's Afro, and it was so cold he didn't notice when his hair caught fire on one of the press box's exposed light bulbs.
Three years later, blessedly, the Superdome was open for business when the Cowboys beat the Denver Broncos.
What makes a great Super Bowl city?
As we embarrassingly learned here in North Texas, a great stadium alone isn't the answer.
The weather has a lot to do with it. Rain is not uncommon at Super Bowls. But the Super Bowl week commute shouldn't resemble the Iditarod, as it did here two years ago.
The Super Bowl visitor wants to remember not only the game, but also the restaurant where he ate the night before and the strangers he walked down the street partying with.
The Super Bowl isn't a VIP party tent, though annually there are plenty of those.
It's a welcome mat, not just a long line of parked limos.
It's a place to walk and people-watch. You would be surprised how many Super Bowl host cities forget even that basic necessity.
A recurring sin of many Super Bowl hosts is price-gouging. But a football fan wants to feel like a welcomed guest, not a once-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity.
New Orleans isn't cheap, but it knows that tourism drives its economy. So you won't see any $20 hamburgers on a Super Bowl menu.
A good Super Bowl host also knows the value of convenience. Within a one-mile radius of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome -- the stadium's new corporate name -- visitors will find 22,000 hotel rooms as well as the main press center and headquarters hotels for the NFL, the media and the two competing teams.
For the party-inclined, the city's French Quarter has been offering low-hanging fruit for more than 200 years.
From the mud and destruction that Hurricane Katrina wrought, New Orleans has undergone a civic renaissance. The Superdome underwent a $336 million facelift. The streetcars are running again on Canal Street.
When the Ravens and 49ers hit town this month, New Orleans will be hosting the Super Bowl for a record-tying 10th time.
Let the party resume.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697
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