It all started with a text message I received on Halloween day.
The message said I had won the Coca-Cola & Rouses Saints Cash Catch Sweepstakes. I had been entering the contest frequently and was hoping I would win this football season. There are eight winners throughout the contest, one for each New Orleans Saints home game.
Just winning the sweepstakes gets you four tickets to a Saints game, a jersey, a T-shirt, an autographed football and some media guides. But you also get to participate in a halftime contest on the field at the Saints game, where you have the opportunity to catch up to three punts for additional prizes.
Standing out on the field with everyone in the Superdome looking at you is a surreal experience. Although I heard them announce my name on the loud speaker, I tried to focus on the guy launching the punts, which actually come from a machine rather than a human leg. The first one was from 30 yards out, and I caught it pretty cleanly. The crowd cheered. I was off to catch the next punt from 50 yards.
I had a little trouble picking up the second punt because of the lights on the top of the Superdome. But once I found it, it just seemed to come to rest easily in my arms. The crowd cheered louder this time.
The third punt was from 70 yards out and I could hear people yelling for me to get it. Unfortunately, that punt was wide left and went only about 62-64 yards. I tried to run up to catch it, but I wasn’t fast enough and the ball bounced harmlessly on the field. It was disappointing for sure, but still lots of fun.
As my family and I were walking back to our seats, people recognized me. “You were that guy on the field. You got robbed,” one person said. That was followed by a lot of high fives from strangers, a lot of people offering congratulations and one guy who asked if he could take a selfie with me.
When I got back to Section 619 in the upper deck, many of the people there applauded me or slapped me on the back. And when I finally sat down, my phone was blowing up with texts from friends.
So what did I win? Some Coke products, a $300 Rouses card and Saints season tickets for next year. If I had caught that last punt, I would have received a $500 Rouses card, season tickets and a $1,000 check.
The good news for you, dear reader? You can still enter for future Saints games and have the same experience I did. Just text CASHCATCH to 26739, or go to this link and enter online. You can enter daily.
One funny. Sometime in the second half, a Saints player fumbled a punt. Being in kind of a wise guy mood, I told my wife and son, “C’mon, I can catch it better than that.” They laughed. Even though I wasn’t talking to her, the lady in the row above me chimed in: “And you proved it too, honey!”