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Jan 25, 2010 8:00 PM by Letitia Walker

Saints Victory Lifts Spirits in Still-Scarred City

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - It was evident in the sounds of busy cash
registers and in the smiles of construction workers in a
neighborhood where Hurricane Katrina's scars linger: the Saints'
journey to the Super Bowl has added bounce to this city's long,
hard recovery and added a new reason to party going into the
raucous Mardi Gras season.
It was even reflected in the political discourse. "I'll find
the Drew Brees of police chiefs," mayoral candidate Troy Henry
promised at a forum Monday, in a nod to the Saints' popular
quarterback.
"It lifted my spirits," construction worker Kenneth Lewis, 46,
said during a late morning lunch break. He was part of a crew
renovating a house in the Broadmoor area, a rebounding
Katrina-flooded neighborhood where blocks of freshly painted houses
and neat lawns are still pocked by abandoned houses in various
stages of disrepair.
"I'll be in Miami," Lewis said, anticipating a trip to the
Super Bowl. "I'm not sure if I'll get tickets, but I'll be in
Miami."
The team's 31-28 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings
sent shoulder-to-shoulder crowds pouring into French Quarter
streets Sunday night in a scene reminiscent of Mardi Gras - fitting
since the Feb. 7 Super Bowl will fall on the first big weekend of
parades for the annual pre-Lenten bash that culminates on Feb. 16.
New Orleans police - accustomed to controlling big crowds -
reported no serious problems with the Sunday night celebrations.
Sending a team to the Super Bowl may provide more than just a
spiritual lift.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said the
Super Bowl presents a marketing opportunity to attract new and
expanding businesses - and to wipe away the images of post-Katrina
devastation that he said some companies still associate with
Louisiana.
"It really just helps put a spotlight on our state in a
positive way," Moret said Monday.
He said his office will be "using the Super Bowl as a pivot
point to get out positive messages about the state of Louisiana."
But don't expect any state economic development ads during the
game, Moret said, noting that the cost of TV advertising time
during the Super Bowl is larger than his department's ad budget for
the entire year.
On Monday, Saints-themed merchandise was flying off the shelves
at Academy Sports and Outdoors in the suburb of Gretna. The store
opened immediately after the game Sunday night, said Debbie
Legania, a sales associate.
For safety reasons, store employees only let about 40 customers
in at a time, she said.
"We had at least 400 customers in here in the three hours we
were open. At least 400. We closed at 1 a.m," she said.
When the doors reopened Monday morning, the crowds were waiting,
she said. And by noon, they were still streaming in.
"I'm going to buy at least 10 of the NFC championship
T-shirts," said Tracy Goetzel, of LaPlace, La., who was in scrubs
and on a lunch break from a nearby doctor's office where she works.
"I want to make sure everybody is ready for the Super Bowl and
dressed in their proper attire."
The enthusiasm spilled over into residents' Mardi Gras
preparations. Traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and
gold. But many were opting for the Saints' team colors, said Alyssa
Fletchinger, an assistant manager at Plush Appeal Mardi Gras Beads
and Costumes.
"People are decorating their homes, their floats, their
everything in black and gold this year," Fletchinger said. "Black
and gold is always popular. But this year we can't keep it on the
shelves."
Victory was especially sweet for New Orleans businessman Dave
Dixon, who fought to bring an NFL team to the city in the 1960s and
was a driving force behind construction of the Louisiana Superdome
in the 1970s.
Dixon, 86, had to watch the game at home because of his health.
"Oh, man," he said Monday in a telephone interview. "I feel
like I'm in heaven. Just wonderful. I had a little heart problem.
But I feel much better. I'm very exhilarated over the Saints' great
victory."

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