Monday Night Football

September 27, 2006

This past Monday, I had what might have been my personal best football game experience. If you happened to catch any of the sports networks, CNN, or even Al Jazeera, you will know that the Monday Night Football game this week marked the reopening of the Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. A whole day of hullabaloo was scheduled, and I left work at lunch time to check it all out.

The weather was perfect. Clear, dry, breezy, and warm but not hot. The blocks around the Superdome weren't blocked off, but they were rendered useless for all of the foot traffic. Someone had set up stages for live music and there were beer trucks nearby, so the traffic handlers couldn't have been surprised.

We stopped by a friend's party nearby. They've got a new place downtown in a great location. It was fun to see them (and eat their food and drink their beer), but they had all of the hoopla on TV, and it made me itch to get out in the middle of it. So I (most rudely) grabbed one more beer, said my thanks, and hit the road.

Poydras Street outside of the Superdome a few hours before the game.

We were soon among the masses clogging the streets, enjoying the music and watching the people. Eddie claimed to have spotted Danny Bonaduce eating a giant turkey leg and a little later Joey Buttafuco, but I'm skeptical about both sightings.

Up the ramp where the Superdome entrance doors are, there were activities galore, and a stage featuring the Gin Blossoms. It wasn't possible to get too close to the stage, but that was okay as I listened and recalled that they only sing kind of sucky chick-friendly songs from the early 90s.

Maybe I shouldn't write this, but we couldn't help but notice that New Orleans on Monday was a very vanilla city. I'm used to the Saints home crowd to a very diverse one (well, not technically diverse, since there were a whole lot of black people and a whole lot of white people and not many others). But Monday, the sea of white faces was a reminder that not all of the Saints fans are home. So that was kind of a disappointment.

If it bothered anyone of any race, you sure couldn't tell. When the doors opened, the crowd surged ever so slowly toward the door. But spirits were high, and all of the complaining was in a joking fashion. "If I could get wood, I'd poke all these guys with it, and I bet I would move right to the front of the line," I heard someone say.

The teams were warming up when I sat down. We watched them do their drills for a while. When they returned to the locker room, the cheer was as loud as in a touchdown during a normal game. This crowd was ready.

The pregame performance featuring U2 and Green Day was fantastic. As you'll see from my pictures, my live eyes could see only the top/backs of heads, but the speakers surrounded the stage, and the band sounded great (not withstanding Billie Joe Armstrong's lack of tune at the beginning of the second song). The second number turned into a rockin' little song called "The Saints are Coming," which is a 70s punk tune that I had never heard, and had not been recorded by either of these bands. The lyrics and fast music got the crowd on their feet, and the roar got louder. After that show, I predicted that if the Saints were as fired up as the crowd that they would win by 30.

Coach Sean Peyton communes with the fans after the game.

There was more pregame hoopla, but the only point worth mentioning is that the PA announcer made it good and clear that the tosser of the coin was President Bush #41, of Clinton/Bush relief fund renown -- not President W, of "You're doing a great job, Brownie" fame.

I've never been to a huge important playoff game, but I can't imagine that the atmosphere is any more intense than when this game started. All of the announcers on the broadcasts mentioned it, and the players talked about the crowd noise without exception after the game. I think it might have been the most consistently loud event in the history of the stadium.

The Saints played off it right from the start. They went on defense first, and the roar of the crowd was so that you couldn't even make out the voice next to you. The Falcons went three and out, and then had their punt blocked and recovered for a Saints touchdown.

The Saints won 23-3, and although the crows simmered down just a little bit for part of the second half, there was hardly an empty seat in the whole Dome. The crowd stuck around until the last of the Saints were off the field.

It took a pretty reasonable two hours to get home once we got clear of the crowd and out to the parking garage -- one hour to get out of the garage, and one hour to get home. All drivers on the interstate agreed to cruise along at a steady speed around 90 mph. I didn't really know that my Jeep would sustain that kind of speed, but I was glad that it did.

When I got back into the house, it was 1:30. I had an inclination to start watching the recording of the game, but some common sense told me to feed the cats and get to bed.

The whole collection of photos from Monday is posted here.