(by Amir Efrati, The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com) – New Orleans can’t stop thinking about Miami. And like a giddy schoolboy, it’s having trouble getting anything else done.
Residents are preparing for the first Super Bowl appearance by the Saints football team on Sunday. Everything else, it appears, can wait.
Pre-Mardi Gras parades have been rescheduled. Some restaurants are closing on a non-holiday for the first time. Sunday evening Mass is canceled across much of the city, with the blessing of the local archbishop.
In moving the start date of a civil trial from earlier this week to Feb. 9, Parish of Orleans Judge Michael G. Bagneris wrote in an order that he “takes judicial notice that Saintsmania permeates the City of New Orleans.”
The 60-year-old judge said that despite his reputation for sticking to schedules, “It would be impossible to get a jury during Super Bowl week to weigh evidence. Everybody’s going to be thinking, ‘Is [Saints tight end Jeremy] Shockey going to be able to play through his injury? Is [Saints quarterback Drew] Brees going to be “on”?’ “
Many high schools will be closed Monday, and several court trials won’t begin until at least Tuesday. Some city employees lobbied for a government holiday, but the city already operates only four days a week, skipping Fridays, as a budget-saving measure.
Several employees who made “timely requests” were given Monday off, said Courtney Bagneris, the city’s assistant chief administrative officer, and a relative of Judge Bagneris.
One of the biggest casualties of the Saints’ run: the mayoral primary Saturday, a day before the game. “The race isn’t at the top of anyone’s mind,” said Rob Couhig, a Republican candidate.
Local TV newscasts are focused almost exclusively on the Saints, he said. “Then they turn to sports, and it’s more Saints.”
Media outlets informed Entergy New Orleans that it likely wouldn’t get much coverage for a Tuesday news conference, said an Entergy spokesman. Entergy is announcing an effort to lobby Congress to fund a federal program to help low-income customers pay their heating bills.
The football fever has provided a jolt for a city that has struggled to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. An estimated 86% of in-use TVs in New Orleans tuned in to watch Garrett Hartley drill the winning 40-yard field goal Jan. 24 to vault the Saints over the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl, according to the Fox Network, which aired the game and calls it the highest-ever local rating for a postseason NFL game.
“Who Dat,” the Saints’ rallying cry that New Orleans residents and the NFL claim as their own, has become code for pride.
Commander’s Palace, a restaurant famous for turtle soup and bread pudding souffle, will be closed for dinner on Super Bowl Sunday-the first intentional closure on a day besides Christmas and Mardi Gras.
The move is a show of solidarity, said co-owner Ti Adelaide Martin, who was in attendance at the first-ever Saints football game in 1967.
Mike Giambelluca, principal of Jesuit High School, canceled classes after hearing the Saints would return from Miami around noon Monday. He expects hundreds of his students to greet the team at the airport.
Most of the city’s 26 Catholic high schools have said they would honor the football “holiday.” The public school board of Plaquemines Parish, bordering New Orleans, announced on its Web site all schools would be closed, adding, “Geaux Saints!!!”
-Chris Herring contributed to this article.
Write to Amir Efrati at email@example.com.
1. List the changes/closings that have been made in New Orleans to allow people to watch the Superbowl and welcome home New Orleans Saints.
2. What two events happening in the next week probably won’t get much media or public attention?
3. What percentage of in-use TVs in New Orleans were tuned-in to the Saints-Vikings championship game last week?
4. Why did the principal of Jesuit High School in New Orleans close his school on Monday, the day after the Superbowl?
5. This is the first time ever that the New Orleans Saints have made it to the Superbowl.
Do you think local schools should be closed the day after the Superbowl? Explain your answer.
Read about the history of the Saints’ fans use of “Who dat?” at sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=capress-fbn_super_bowl_who_dat-043510926&prov=capress&type=lgns.
From 1983 here’s one of the first music videos about WHO DAT via New Orleans TV featuring singer Aaron Neville, Saints players John Hill, Dave Waymer, Brad Edelman, Louis Oubre, and Reggie Lewis. Also early in the video is sportscaster Ron Swoboda.