Congratulations, Baltimore! You’ve won the Super Bowl. Your team played a great game, despite a comeback made by the San Francisco 49ers post blackout. Your win was well deserved. You played hard, partied hard, were gracious guests, and you loved our city. Back in Baltimore, your fans celebrated the same way we did back in 2010, when the Saints won the Super Bowl. We hope you come back again and win another Super Bowl here.
However, New Orleans was the real winner this year.
In the 10th Super Bowl the city has hosted, and the first since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans proved to the world the progression the city has made on all accounts. It’s evidenced by the wonderful compliments overheard on the streets, the happy visitors, and the overwhelming amount of positive press the city received. It was incredibly satisfying to see that other people around the country finally understood what we, as New Orleanians, knew all along.
As someone who was not only writing about the Super Bowl and New Orleans, but also following what the media was saying, I was paying special attention.
One thing I noticed was the way the tone of media articles evolved throughout the week. Many of the pieces at the beginning of Super Bowl week used clichés in their descriptions of New Orleans.
An online publication from Silicon Valley wrote, “This might be the land of voodoo and spirits, but Kaepernick said he has no superstitions to follow.” The New York Times included another eye-rolling reference to voodoo with, “It’s the overindulgence epicenter, where happy hour flows right past midnight and into breakfast, when you can walk into a voodoo shop and buy a bottle of Love Potion No. 9.”
However, as the week went on and a record-breaking 5,200 members of the media arrived in New Orleans, those perceptions changed. It must have happened sometime just after a hand grenade and Love Potion No. 9 and before the voodoo priestess and my family’s award-winning roux, but people were finally staring to “get it.” They were finally witnessing first-hand what present-day New Orleans is really like.
It’s a city that has had an economic rebirth. It’s a city that is proud. It has reintroduced itself to the world. We have residents who are accommodating. And inspirational. We are resilient and have overcome our past in a big way.
Our status as a brain magnet has brought new talent and new business, both large and small, into our region. Our economy has recovered better than anywhere else in the country. We have come back even better since Hurricane Katrina. In fact, better than ever. As New Orleanians, we all agree that we are the best Super Bowl hosts. They agree. And so do they. We were terrific hosts.
They finally get it. The media. The country. The world.
I have been writing about New Orleans for almost two years. I have practically shoved our city and its progress down people’s throats, but I realize that not everyone reads NolaVie, NOLA.com, or Forbes. Thanks to those 5,200 media professionals, though, Joe Schmo in Ohio and aspiring entrepreneurs in Kansas now know about our wonderful city and everything it has to offer.
And, how about this for a little validation? A software program, which was being used at theSuper Bowl’s Social Media Command Center to track all of the trending topics associated with New Orleans and the Super Bowl, picked up some unlikely conversations trending on Twitter and Facebook. Using the hash tag #BestofNOLA, “relocation” was one of the big key words being used in the Twittersphere on the days leading up to the big game.
While the 34-minute blackout may have led a few people to worry about what affect it might have on future Super Bowls in New Orleans, that moment was pivotal for the viewers and the fans at The Mercedes-Benz Super Dome. Whether it was the result of an internal issue, Entergy, or old infrastructure, it wasn’t important.
It was a moment to reflect on how far the city has come. Not even eight years ago, the Superdome was shelter for displaced residents during Hurricane Katrina. The history behind what happened there can never be forgotten or changed.
However, the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Super Dome has undergone a multi-million dollar facelift, making it one of the best arenas in the country. New Orleans has overcome not only a natural disaster, economic recession, and oil spill, but we have emerged better and stronger. We were more than ready to show that New Orleans is a world-class city. We proved it. That minor blackout was just a reminder of that. Nothing else.
And besides, who hasn’t blacked out in New Orleans at one time or another? We can honestly say that we have given our visitors the full New Orleans experience.
Congratulations, New Orleans.