As it struggles to recover 15 months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans needs the Sugar Bowl match-up between LSU and Notre Dame to be a huge hit – a partypalooza.
Following a Bayou Classic that went
from 100% hotel occupancy down to just over 50%, it's a sure bet New Orleanians
were callin' the Hawgs when looking for a sweet Sugar Bowl match-up.
But as fans woke up on the Monday
morning after the BCS line-up was announced and began canceling plane tickets
and hotel rooms in Pasadena when they found out we would not be taking time to
smell the roses, you could almost hear the collective groan from disappointed
fans, New Orleans businesses and Baton Rouge
Experts claim the 2004 Sugar Bowl
game between LSU and Oklahoma resulted in a $250 million economic
boom for the city, but that was for a National Championship. A typical Sugar
Bowl means between $175 to $200 million for the city.
There will be no problem selling
tickets since so many Tiger fans can go, and no problem filling hotel rooms in
since Notre Dame is such a strong traveling team with a national following. When
the Fighting Irish played at LSU, Catholics from throughout South Louisiana wanted to be in the stadium, even those
who don't routinely attend LSU games. When LSU traveled to South Bend, Tiger fans
shopped in their campus bookstore in droves to bring home souvenirs of the
trip. Let's face it – would we be
caught dead buying Auburn sweatshirts? There's something about that Notre Dame
But there won't be much overflow
for Baton Rouge hotels, and New Orleans won't get the
four or five night stays they had hoped for from traveling fans. And that's
where the city that care forgot will come up short.
Unfortunately, there hasn't been
much of a rallying cry across the state in support of New Orleans, partly
because of the spike in crime and partly because of the failure of city leaders
to adequately address clean up and recovery.
Meanwhile, celebrities, national
organizations and others across the country who love New Orleans have been
coming to the city to visit and volunteer to save what they feel is one of the
world's great cities.
What we're lacking is a tipping
point for saving New
Orleans – that magical moment when it becomes the cool
thing to do and everyone looks for a reason to spend a little time and money
Not for the politicians, but for
the city. For God's sake, we got in
our cars and drove to Shreveport in 1997 when LSU played Notre Dame in the
Independence Bowl and gave that city the time of its life, didn't we? So much so, that Senator Foster Campbell
threatened to pass legislation requiring LSU to play one game a year in
Why can't we do the same for
Tiger fans could do what FEMA, the Bush administration, Governor Blanco,
Mayor Nagin and even Brad Pitt have all been unable to do – single handedly
jumpstart the New Orleans economy with a massive infusion of purple and gold. It
would be the greatest national news story of 2007 – Louisianans doing what we do
What Tiger fans lack in extended
hotel stays, they can make up by hosting the world's largest tailgate party. The
way I see it, we take over the city of New
Orleans – you know, like we did in Omaha in the glory years of LSU Baseball. We
check in hotels, organize in lobby bars, stake out favorite restaurants to hang
our banners, get chummy with the locals, shop in the stores, eat in the
restaurants and leave them begging for more.
We make just being there fun.
We march into the city for New
Year's Eve, just so the Irish don't get too comfortable, and we don't leave
until we've sent that leprechaun packing. And if you live in New Orleans, head
down to the French Quarter and sing the fight song in the piano bar at Pat
O'Brien's, cover yourself in powdered sugar at Café du Monde and drop a dollar
into the hat of a street performer – that's right, maybe even be nice to a mime.
New Orleans isn't perfect, but it's ours.
So instead of watching the game on
TV at home, let's turn New
Orleans into our living room – our backyard tailgate –
our city. When Tiger fans come together behind a common cause, that's when the
magic occurs. Like when we decided it would be OK to tailgate with the Ragin'
Cajuns in Omaha
and it became the story of the World Series.
Simply put, we make things
So we may not make a $200 million
impact on the city's recovery, but let's make sure they know the Tigers came to
town. Forget trying to blame others for the city's slow recovery – let's just do
the right thing.
Let's chalk up another BCS win and
feel good while having fun.
Rannah Gray is a featured columnist
in Tiger Rag Magazine. Contact her at Rannah@cox.net.