The Super Bowl — the NFL's biggest game. Millions of dollars are spent to attract millions of viewers, and each year the host city hopes it will receive positive publicity and a super economic boost. Prior to Super Bowl XLVII Feb. 3, New Orleans had hosted nine world championship games — all prior to Hurricane Katrina. The city and the NFL went to great lengths to show New Orleans not only had come back from the devastation of 2005, but had moved forward, and that the state of Louisiana also was improving. "A Perfect 10" was the theme used when the city bid for the event, and the week leading up to the big game was indeed perfect.
Then, in one moment, perfection disappeared — the lights in the Superdome went dark.
They came back on 34 minutes later — but by then, the damage was done.
Workers detected an abnormality in a sensor that shut down power to the Dome, leaving the field barely lighted and many of the corridors and bathrooms dark. In an instant, memories of a week blessed with great weather, good food and lots of fun were replaced with images of the Dome following Katrina, when daylight showed through a torn ceiling.
Criticism was harsh and quick.
"Hope New Orleans enjoyed this week. It won't get another Super Bowl after this," tweeted Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde, a national sportswriter and host of a weekly radio show aired across the country.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith also went off on Twitter: "This is TERRIBLE. INEXCUSABLE. And Embarassing. Somebody should pay for this.
"This is sickening. If somehow B'More's momentum is thwarted here, what do you say. I'd ban the SB from New Orleans for next 20 yrs for this! DISGRACEFUL!"
Many members of the national sports media were unhappy with the blackout. A Google image search for "Superdome blackout" brings up countless pictures from news services all over the world.
At the time it was happening, I hoped the problem stemmed from Beyonce's halftime show, which featured fire, countless lights, video and sound. That hope turned to disappointment when media reports said the problem was in house — and it was the very thing organizers brought up as a potential problem during planning meetings in October and December 2012.
I thought of 2018. Duing Super Bowl week, the city made it known it would bid for the 2018 Super Bowl, a process that begins this year and will result in a decision in 2014. Will the blackout — an event that seemed to turn the tide in the game (at least temporarily) as San Francisco rallied after the lights came back on — affect New Orleans' chances of hosting another Super Bowl?
I'm amazed blackouts don't happen more often, considering what it must take to power the Superdome on Super Sunday. If it could have been prevented and wasn't, however, that could hurt our chances for the 2018 game. I don't think it will.
Super Bowl XLVII will be marred forever by the blackout, but it shouldn't discredit all that went well the week leading up to the game. Calling for a city and its people to be punished, as Smith did, is callous and short-sighted, especially when he spent Super Bowl week inside the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn.
"The most important thing is that people understand this was a fantastic week here," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said a day following the game. "This will not affect the view of the NFL about the success of the game here in New Orleans. ... I fully expect we will be back here for future Super Bowls. We want to be back."
Goodell, who probably still won't be invited to a crawfish boil in New Orleans, gets it. He sees the bigger picture. Whatever caused the blackout can be fixed. The commissioner knows what is important is how the whole weeklong event was staged, how guests were handled and entertained and the proximity of all the events.
It stinks that an electrical problem blackened our Perfect 10, but the week was fantastic, and we showed the world we can still function even when the lights go out. We used the time to get more drinks or take a bathroom break. We're kinda used to that in these parts. Don't worry, NOLA, the Super Bowl will be back in 2018.