Rabalais: Super Bowl is back where it belongs

By Scott Rabalais

Advocate sportswriter

Once there was talk that the Super Bowl should be played every year in New Orleans, so well-suited is the city to hosting blowout parties and mega events.

Once there was a time when it seemed more likely that the Super Bowl would never return.

It’s hard to look at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome now, with its new multicolored exterior lighting and fresh bronze facade, and remember the holes in the roof, the ruined infrastructure, the water.

Hurricane Katrina happened less than eight years ago. When it did, it seemed like New Orleans would have a hard time becoming a living city again, much less hold on to a piece of its soul — the Saints.

But here they are, together again, for Super Bowl XLVII, one of America’s most amazing cities hosting America’s biggest game.

Forget the bitterness over Bounty Gate. This is a time for a double Mardi Gras-sized celebration.

What an amazing recovery. What an ending to such a tragic tale, an emotionally moving crescendo that built through two BCS Championship Games, the Sugar Bowl — remember it had to be played in Atlanta that first post-Katrina year? — and the men’s Final Four. Heck, throw in the Women’s Final Four in April at New Orleans Arena as lagniappe.

In many respects, the Super Bowl’s 10th visit to the Crescent City is the final chapter of New Orleans’ long road back. The comeback kid has made good and has invited the world to celebrate its rebooting.

Something called the American Statistical Association put the odds at the Harbowl happening between head coaching brothers at 255-to-1. John and Jim Harbaugh making it to the Super Bowl at the same time? Short odds compared to the road New Orleans has been on to bring the Super Bowl back to one of its ancestral homes.

There’s really no better place for the Super Bowl to be. Southern California and South Florida have beaches. Dallas/Fort Worth has Cowboys Stadium. But those host sites are much more spread out. And next year the Super Bowl will be played near the Jersey Shore? Decent chance at kickoff the temps will be in the teens.

Indianapolis, Detroit and Atlanta have nice, compact downtown areas in which to host the game and its many ancillary events. But none can match the vibe and flavor of the French Quarter.

You’ll certainly never see the Super Bowl come home to nest permanently in New Orleans like the College World Series has in Omaha, Neb. The game is too big for the rest of the country not to want it. But there’s no better place it should be, and hopefully it won’t be 11 years before it returns again.

Certainly there is still work to be done. But if New Orleans can host the Super Bowl, anything is possible.

Now all we need is a compelling game. Something along the lines of Super Bowl XXXVI, when New England nipped St. Louis 20-17, would do nicely.

If Roger Goodell really wants to make amends with New Orleans, he’ll have a chat with the Harbaugh brothers about that.