Just got through watching a pretty exciting game between Los Santos de Nuevo Orleans y Los Tejanos de Houston in the Superdome. Los Santos won 40 to 33. It’s a little weird watching a game with Spanish narration, but not as strange as watching a game over in France. There they used to have a game of the week on the television on Mondays. Americans found it nearly impossible to watch it. Theoretically, a football game is 60 minutes long. Theoretically. But we all know it takes at least 90 minutes what with all the time outs and clock stoppages for incomplete passes, runners stepping out of bounds, etc. But not on French television. There, after an incomplete pass the picture is right back with the quarterback under center and time outs are axed for the audience, too, so an American football game on television in France takes exactly 60 minutes to broadcast. But in spite of the Spanish narration here even someone who doesn’t speak the language can understand “yardas,” “completo,” “incompleto” and “TOUCHDOWN!!!” So practically anyone can catch the drift of the game.
The whole world became acquainted with the Superdome when Hurricane Katrina screamed in from the Gulf of Mexico and literally destroyed the City of New Orleans. Some 26,000 fled to the “Dome” as a “refuge of last resort” for citizens who couldn’t leave the city” for whatever reason. Seating capacity for the Superdome in football configuration is 76,468 but in 1981 more than 87,500 attended a Rolling Stones concert in the “Dome.”
While the world might know what the Superdome is if you’re not from New Orleans or at least have lived there, you really don’t know why it’s as big as it is. There’s a quirky reason for it.
Sports visionary Dave Dixon dreamed up the idea when he was trying to convince the NFL to give The Big Sleazy a team and he looked westward towards Houston that had built the Astrodome which opened to the public in 1965. It was billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The following year Dixon and Louisiana Governor John McKeithen, who desperately wanted a huge project that would revitalize downtown New Orleans, Toured the Astrodome. Houstonians laughed at the men’s dream saying that Louisiana was so corrupt that such a project could never be successfully completed. Then and there McKeithen said that was bull shit and “I’m going to build a dome so big you can put this one inside of mine.” And when the Superdome was completed in August 1975 you could have put the Astrodome inside it, hence the name “Superdome.”
Maybe some day I’ll tell y’awl (N’Awlins expression) about my first visit to the dome which was to see the second Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks fight but right now we’re talking about the Saints playing football there. When I see a game on television being played there I know that actual perspective. It’s right where I used to watch the home games when I lived in New Orleans.
Back in 1981 I went to work as captain of this yacht:
As you can see it was owned by a company called New Orleans Tours (years later they added a large paddlewheeler gambling boat on the Mississippi). New Orleans Tours also had about a dozen buses for touring the area and they also had the contract to bring all of the visiting football teams who were going to play the Saints from the airport to their hotels and then to the Superdome on game day.
The drivers of those buses were given free entry into the Dome for the game but they had to watch standing up in the “wheelchair” section which was just to the right of where the television cameras and press boxes are located at mid-field and about 20 seat rows up from the field itself.
Well, it took the rest of us who worked for New Orleans Tours exactly one game to figure this out. We’d don our New Orleans Tours shirts with the company name embroidered over the right breast pocket and mine had “Captain Richard” over the left pocket. On game day I, along with others with the N.O.T shirts, would purchase the cheapest ticket available. It was probably somewhere in the end zone and so high that you couldn’t even stand behind the seat you were assigned but that’s just a guess because I never tried to find the seat. Instead we’d immediately go to the wheelchair section. The “rent a cop” who was stationed there to keep unauthorized people out knew that the New Orleans Tour drivers were allowed in that section, so we’d quietly pocket our cheapo tickets go to the “rent a cop” and point at the “New Orleans Tours” on our shirts and say we were with the company and implying though not actually saying we were drivers and gain admission to the restricted area. Then, to really seal the deal, we’d go to one of the people who were in a wheelchair, introduce ourselves and tell them if there was anything at all they wanted during the game to just let us know…drinks, nachos, whatever. That we we could claim were we not only with the tour company but we were personal friends with one of the handicapped.
So, that’s where I watched the games for several years. With a $15 ticket in my pocket I’d stand in the middle of the $50 seats and one of the nice things was that when things got really exciting nobody ever stood up in front of you to block your view.