The intersection of St. Peter and Bourbon streets was a blur in a different way on the night of Feb. 7, 2010, and into the early-morning hours of Feb. 8 as the French Quarter filled up within minutes of the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl. (Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock, Inc.)
Postcard from the French Quarter:
(With my heart going out to those affected by tornado damage Tuesday in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, here’s a look back at one of the best night’s in the Crescent City’s history. Originally posted at 3:21 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2010, on a blog long since shuttered.)
NEW ORLEANS — Super Bowl Sunday has become early Monday morning, almost imperceptibly, and this afterglow of the Super Bowl victory by the New Orleans Saints still feels like something that might forever be called Lombardi Gras.
The fusion of the NFL’s championship trophy with the Carnival atmosphere in the Big Easy in February 2010 seems inspired now, almost fated, as I sit and rest tired feet while younger, more energetic revelers continue to party in the French Quarter. Now we know why the Big Game had to creep from January into February over the years.
Some of the passersby look at me as I type notes on my BlackBerry, and based on their comments, they think I’m texting someone. In a way, I suppose I am. I’m texting you.
In no particular order, except the free-flow way I typed them, here are notes of the sights, sounds and smells of my walk from near the Convention Center down to Jackson Square and deep into the Quarter:
Minutes after the game, euphoria.
There’s never been a feeling like it.
New Orleans empties onto its streets.
Car horns blare.
Strangers high-five strangers.
Tonight, no one is a stranger.
We’re all trying to wrap our minds around it.
“The Saints, NFL champions!”
The streets fill with cheers, and thanks to go-cups, “cheers!”
There are no words, really, but we’re all trying.
“Boom, chaka laka laka! Boom, chaka laka laka!”
More high fives, swarming like flies.
“Big guy, Who Dat!”
We pass Harrah’s, where a crowd has gathered.
The flow on Poydras seems headed toward the Superdome.
Let’s veer off into the Quarter.
You can see more of the street surface than usual.
That won’t last.
Someone’s walking under huge black-and-gold balloons.
Music is blaring from car stereos.
Car horns are approximating Mardi Gras songs.
More high fives.
Right there, smiling children who can’t possibly grasp the moment like their parents can.
Big-drink-in-hand high fives.
Cell-phone-hand high fives.
A single boot on the ground across from Café du Monde.
Let’s play kick the boot!
Your blogger sits and types his notes.
“Who Dat sitting on the phone, texting!” a girl yells.
“He Dat!” her boyfriend chants.
Me Dat, your blogger thinks.
Drew Brees jerseys everywhere.
Reggie Bush jerseys almost everywhere.
A Deuce McAllister jersey catches the eye.
Powdered sugar and jubilation floating in the air.
Around Jackson Square, tarot card readings.
Candles burn, lighting a dark corner.
Nothing beats the smiles of a young stoner couple.
Beads, beads, beads.
A Jeremy Shockey jersey, filled out like I’d never seen, stumbles over to Who Dat and high-five me.
“Halftime (Stand Up & Get Crunk)” fills the cold air.
Improvised percussion. A small parade starts.
Ghetto booties follow.
There are few, if any, street performers out here.
And yet, everyone out here qualifies, in a sense.
Cars roll by as people stand through the sunroofs.
What came first, those or Texas Stadium?
Trucks roll by as people stand in the flatbeds.
A jazz band parades past us.
Yep, this is what the Quarter smells like.
A lot of black and gold.
A little purple and gold.
(Many of them female)
A Saints Tailgating Crew mini-bus.
Cops on horseback.
Shirtless guys standing on the roof of a moving Suburban.
Does everyone out here have style and rhythm? Sure seems that way.
“Let’s repeat!” he says, and then he high-fives your blogger.
A man and his son ride their bikes through the craziness.
A blue hula hoop gets a workout around more black and gold.
A “When the Saints” parade breaks out, punctuated by Who Dats.
Group photos that from a distance, in the dark, resemble team photos.
A young woman announces she must soon relieve herself.
A split-second later, she Who Dats me, then high-fives me.
Her boyfriend slaps my hand, but it doesn’t feel like a high five.
Cat in the Hat hats in Mardi Gras colors near Pat O’s.
A single glove on the ground at the entrance.
The streets have fewer people on them than you’d think.
Five are making the noise of 10.
Ah, and then I turn onto Bourbon.
Five hundred make the noise of 1,000.
Garbage is fast piling up against the curbs.
A Manning jersey — Saints, No. 8.
No sign of the Manning jersey — Colts, No. 18 — from this afternoon.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” sung twice in two blocks.
Bourbon is crowded.
And then some.
The girl pushing against me wants me to back up.
“Get the heck off me,” she says.
Except she doesn’t say “heck.”
She can’t grasp the force pushing me into her.
Or the force pushing her into me.
The Bourbon Street crowd is a little more surly.
This has crowd surge written all over it.
It’s probably a good time to duck in for beignets and elbow room.
Everyone seems to want to high-five the guy by himself.
There’s joy, disbelief and catharsis everywhere.
And no riots, fires or looting, at least not where I can see.
I’m cold, and it’s a long, long walk to where I left my car.
I hope it’s still there.
I’m glad I came. This was the place to be when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The Saints won the Super Bowl. Mardi Gras may never end.
Lombardi Gras has a pretty respectable momentum itself.
Time to give the thumbs a rest.
I might need them to hitch a ride if I can’t find my car.
Seven years later, I’m struck by how many references there are in this play-by-play account of French Quarter revelry that a person would struggle to understand without having some familiarity with: a) New Orleans culture; b) the Saints’ many losing seasons; c) Super Bowl history; d) Mardi Gras; and e) the allowance of open containers of alcoholic beverages on the streets of New Orleans.
The sense of connection, in scope and in fervor, was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. All of us were part of a community, even if you didn’t know anybody else on the streets that night. We were all friends. We all knew what that championship, something many thought we’d never live to see, meant to post-Katrina New Orleans and to people who remember what the city was like before Aug. 29, 2005, the day the hurricane came ashore.
Seven years after that Lombardi Gras night, instead of being able to enjoy the anniversary, New Orleans was busy picking up the pieces from another destructive strike from nature. That nearly convinced me not to repost this old blog piece. But, at a time when it’s almost impossible to imagine the kind of togetherness I felt on the streets with thousands of strangers, I’ve been revisiting good days in America, good memories. This qualifies.
Lucky Dog photo by Lori Monahan Borden via Shutterstock.
St. Louis Cathedral photo by Natalia Bratslavsky via Shutterstock.
Café du Monde photo by Andriy Blokhin via Shutterstock.
Drew Brees photo by Action Sports Photography via Shutterstock.
Note: Yep, no camera that night. Just the BlackBerry. So even though these photos are from different days in New Orleans history, they help, I hope, paint a more colorful picture than just the many words I pieced together with my thumbs on that wild night seven years ago.