May 18, 2014 12:24 AM by Jeff Duncan
Forgive New Orleans Super Bowl officials if they feel like a No. 1 seed as it prepares for its first-round game against a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
New Orleans is the favorite to win the bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl, which will be awarded by the NFL on Tuesday at the league's owners meeting in Atlanta.
Most believe it would take a Hickory High-like upset to prevent the Crescent City from winning the bid. If California Chrome is a 3-5 shot to win the Preakness, then New Orleans is at least even-money to win Super Bowl LII.
New Orleans has everything going for it. The climate and downtown footprint are user-friendly. The nightlife is world-renowned. And its expertise in hosting big events is unparalleled.
There's a reason why New Orleans was named the top North American sports destination city in the 2013 World Travel Awards. And there's a reason why New Orleans is 10 for 10 in Super Bowl bids. We do these things better than anyone else.
Now, add the lagniappe of a potentially epic tricentennial celebration in 2018, and, well, Indianapolis and Minneapolis have their work cut out for them.
The 2018 tricentennial promises to be a yearlong bacchanalia, and if all goes according to plan Super Bowl LII will kick off the party.
I can't imagine NFL owners turning down such an alluring proposition. The opportunity to celebrate such an historic event in the league's most historic city is about as enticing as it gets.
"It's an opportunity for the NFL to be a part of a very special event that can't happen any other year in any other city," said Sam Joffray, the senior vice president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
New Orleans Super Bowl committee members are taking nothing for granted. They respect the Super Bowl process and know the intensity of the competition. They also know upsets happen.
New Orleans' first winning Super Bowl bid in 1969 was a major upset. At the time, everyone assumed Super Bowl IV was Miami's to lose. The city had wowed league owners in hosting the big game the previous two years. Some even believed Miami should permanently host the event. But New Orleans won the bid with a stealth attack that included an unforgettable Al Hirt-Hoagy Carmichael concert.
"We have never taken it for granted that we've hosted (the Super Bowl) 10 times," said Jay Cicero, the president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. "We're putting everything into it that we have. It's important to the state of Louisiana, to New Orleans, to the Saints, to the entire tourism and hospitality industry."
Cicero said the proposal compiled by Joffray was the most thorough, comprehensive and resource-laden of his 22-year tenure.
Its slick multi-media presentation would make Hollywood South proud. Archie Manning and Harry Connick Jr. are featured in the pitch. The proposals were customized for each NFL owner and housed in beautiful cypress boxes crafted by Harahan cabinetmaker David Perrier. Even the theme "N.O. Better Time: A Story 300 Years in the Making" is catchy.
The few snippets of the presentation I saw were impressive. If either Indianapolis or Minneapolis wins the bid they will have earned it. It certainly won't be because New Orleans mailed it in or failed to deliver a worthy proposal.
"We've raised the bar," said Joffray of the nearly 200-page bid proposal.
Cicero added: "Everything is on the table."
The folks that handicap these things believe the competition will ultimately boil down to New Orleans and Indianapolis. Even though Minneapolis has a spectacular new stadium in its bid arsenal, most believe they are a year away from serious contention.
Indy, though, has momentum on its side. City officials hit a home run with Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 and understandably want to strike while the Indy's iron is hot with NFL owners. The city's relatively limited number of downtown hotel rooms - 6,000 compared to 20,000 in New Orleans - is a disadvantage, but its Midwestern hospitality, cozy downtown footprint and big-event experience are attractive assets.
What's more, Indy has embraced the underdog role. It would surprise no one if Gene "Norman Dale" Hackman led their pitch to owners next week.
So Indianapolis will undoubtedly present a formidable challenge. The city's planners have earned the league's respect. But zip lines and synchronized traffic flow only carry you so far. In the end, Indianapolis is still Indianapolis and New Orleans is still New Orleans.
Hoosiers was a terrific movie and Indy is a fine town, but time -- and everything else -- is on our side. New Orleans beat Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV, and it will do so again for Super Bowl LII. And there are about CCC reasons why.