Brian Allee-Walsh

NFL doesn't rain on New Orleans' parade with awarding of Super Bowl LVIII

Once again, the great, all-powerful National Football League has recognized New Orleans for what it is — the best city to hold its championship game known worldwide as the Super Bowl.

Naturally, I'm prejudiced but no city does it better than the Big Easy when it comes to staging the blockbuster event. Oh, some larger metro areas may do certain aspects better but NOLA wins the all-around title hands down.

Period. End of story.

February 4, 2024.

Circle the date.

On that night, nine days before Fat Tuesday brings an end to Mardi Gras '24, Super Bowl LVIII will be played inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It will mark a league-record 11th time for the game to be played in our fair city, the last occurring Feb. 3, 2013, when a power outage abruptly interrupted Super Bowl XLVII between Baltimore and San Francisco and coached by the other Harbaugh brother.

OK, I've given my town and the Super Bowl LVIII host committee their rightful props. Well played, y'all. But I'm so over a Super Bowl being the means to an end for every league hamlet that hands over its city's keys to money-flushed owners. I'm well aware of what The Game allegedly can mean to a community in terms of economic impact — an estimated $500 million and certain to grow by leaps and bounds by the time 2024 rolls around.

Let's put this announcement in proper perspective: The NFL's unanimous decision to award Super Bowl LVIII to the Big Easy and Saints owner Gayle Benson came soon after our freshly minted mayor, LaToya Cantrell, publicly declared New Orleans as a "city that floods.''

Cantrell made this assertion in response to our city's routine inability to handle heavy rains with an archaic drainage infrastructure that clearly is in desperate need of a system overhaul. Her words also came on the eve of hurricane season with a tropical disturbance bearing down on the central Gulf of Mexico. In other words, when it rains elsewhere, it pours in New Orleans and our outdated pumps have trouble keeping up.

Some city leaders were critical of Cantrell, saying the publicizing of our systemic problems only serves to throw up a red flag and scare away future tourism and business opportunities. Hey, it is what it is.

Obviously, Cantrell's honest assessment didn't scare away the NFL. I only wish league owners would have attached a mandate that a huge chunk of the economic boost that we are supposed to feel from Super Bowl LVIII will go directly to upgrading our drainage system.

The league has proven it can influence city and state governments to improve their NFL stadiums when it comes to the awarding of Super Bowls.

Heck, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, let alone six years from now. I only hope our city's head is still above water when Super Bowl LVIII finally comes back to town.

That said, I can say with some certainty that 39-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a better chance of playing a Super Bowl in Atlanta this coming February than he has of playing one in his home stadium in 2024.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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