Lewis: New Orleans not used to losing out on major sporting events

New Orleans not used to losing out on major sporting events

Tough day.

Tough day for Tom Benson, who dealt with the pain of his recent knee surgery to make a late-morning flight here, only to take a tumble stepping off the podium after addressing his fellow NFL owners, and then having to deal with the disappointment of seeing New Orleans bid for a record 11th Super Bowl shot down.

Tough day for Jay Cicero, Sam Joffray and the rest of the folks who put in months of work putting together what Cicero said was the best bid presentation for an event in his 22 years with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

Tough day for those who had seen Super Bowl LII as the perfect launching pad for New Orleans’ 300th anniversary celebration, one that would show the world the renewal of the city after the devastation.

And tough day for New Orleans as a prime venue for major sports.

We don’t lose out on many of these things, and had never been beaten out for a Super Bowl in 10 previous tries.

To be sure, the College Football Playoffs championship game for 2016 went to Tampa last year. But all indications were that that was going to happen.

The conventional wisdom for this day was that New Orleans was a solid favorite again.

To find something that New Orleans really went after and was blindsided by the result, you have to go all the way back to 2003 when a bid for a Final Four in 2007 or 2008 was shot down.

It’s a very odd feeling from those who have been involved in the rhythm in these events for some time.

“We’ve been very fortunate to put together a lot aggressive bids,” Cicero said. “But when you lose a major event like this, it’s not a good day.”

Naturally there will be much speculation on why it happened.

Let’s get this out of the way: It had absolutely nothing to do with the blackout during Super Bowl XLVII a year ago.

Neither did it have anything to do with a reported resentment by some owners toward Benson’s animosity toward Roger Goodell over the pay-for-performance scandal instead of his firing Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton.

It was happened because the fine folks in Minnesota went and found significant public funding for a $1 billion stadium that will provide a clear view though its roof and walls to the normally frozen ground of Minneapolis in wintertime — in contrast to the inflatable roof of the Metrodome, which collapsed under the weight of too much snow a couple of years ago.

The as-yet-unnamed stadium, which is now sure to find a generous title sponsor, will get Minneapolis back in the mix for Final Fours and a possible bid for a future CFP title game as well as the Super Bowl.

The NFL likes to reward such bold action. But the conventional wisdom was that Minneapolis would have to wait a year, especially since its bid, the first in more than two decades, didn’t have the finished feel of those from New Orleans and Indianapolis, the other finalist, which missed on its first try before landing the 2012 game.

But by 2019, the new stadium here, which they just broke ground for on Monday, will be competing for a Super Bowl, too. And the NFL doesn’t like to pit cities with new stadiums against each other, which is what happened when Indianapolis lost to Dallas.

So where does that leave New Orleans in the Super Bowl pecking order?

Apparently 2020 is the next-best shot. But stadium improvements in Miami and San Diego, both favored venues along with New Orleans, put them back in the mix.

Throw in Tampa, Dallas and maybe other northern sites like Washington or Denver, and it’s easy too see that the competition will only get tougher. So we might have another nine-year gap between Super Bowls as we did the past two.

As for other events, New Orleans is a finalist for a Final Four in either 2017, 2019 or 2020 (2018 was skipped because of the Super Bowl bid). That decision will be made in November.

The next available CFP championship is 2019, but the financials for that will prove difficult, especially if a bill that passed the legislature in 2011 that pulls money from the state office of tourism, the department of economic development, and the extra sales tax generated by big events to provide financial support for bids remains unfunded.

That doesn’t mean these events won’t be coming our way in the future. They’re just much less of a sure thing than before.

As will the things that help make them possible.

Winning Tuesday’s Super Bowl bid would have meant an almost-automatic $75 million in capital outlay from the state for Superdome improvements, such as new video boards. Those might be delayed now.

And while not getting Super Bowl LII doesn’t completely knock the Tricentennial into a cocked hat, it means there’s no big sports-themed element for the celebration either.

There was certainly no celebrating by the bid organizers Tuesday. They presented a bid focusing on what New Orleans does best while taking nothing for granted. They’re pros and will move on, but the disappointment on their faces Tuesday was palpable.

We didn’t get to see Benson’s face Tuesday because of his accident. But the realization that at age 86 this might have been his last, best shot at seeing a Super Bowl in his home city (with the Saints winning it, naturally) has to hurt as much his head does.

At least he was OK.

Still, bidding for a Super Bowl is like playing in a Super Bowl. Second place sucks.

Tough day.