NEW ORLEANS — It was 50 years ago Saturday that this city officially joined the ranks of big-time pro sports destinations. Super Bowl IV was played that day, Jan. 11, 1970, and the Chiefs crushed the Vikings in what was the last game played under the separate auspices of NFL and AFL.
Otis Taylor scored a big touchdown. Mike Garrett famously scored on a play helpfully termed “65 toss power trap” on the official Super Bowl video by Chiefs coach Hank Stram (who also went on a bit about “matriculating the ball down the field” and telling the refs, “Ya marked it good, ya marked it good!”).
That game was played in a relic of a yard called Tulane Stadium, traditional home of college football’s Sugar Bowl — a crumbling old joint that sat 81,000 people, almost none of them comfortably. The first three Super Bowls played in the Big Easy were played there, with the promise of the futuristic Superdome to come.
Later, in 1982, the Superdome became part of the rotation for the Final Four. All it got for that debut was North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62, Dean Smith’s first championship, clinched because the oldest of old-school coaches gave a green light to a freshman named Michael Jordan to take an open 16-footer.
Big games come here less and less nowadays, because more and more Super Bowls and Final Fours have become gold mines. New stadiums sprout up, billion-dollar palaces, and one of the unspoken agreements is this: We’ll build it, but you’d better come.
So it is that these national showcase events have come to be played in places like Minneapolis and Detroit and Jacksonville. And look, just to prove I’m not a parochial pariah, I’ll include New York on that list, too. If the Super Bowl overwhelmed and practically closed down Jacksonville, it was the exact opposite when it visited New York and New Jersey a few years ago: Gotham is too big for it. The event was swallowed whole by the city.
One of the great perks of my career as a sportswriter is I’ve attended enough Super Bowls and enough Final Fours to recognize that, in a perfect world, there would be separate five-year rotations for both the Final Four and the Super Bowl that would maximize the experience for the fans who follow their teams there, and thus are hoping for the best possible experience.
And in this world — in VacWorld — that rotation would look something like this:
1. New Orleans: Enough bars, enough restaurants, enough hotels and more than enough local charm. I’d dare say there has never been a fan — ever — who has had a bad experience attending a Final Four, a Super Bowl or a college football playoff here. It literally has everything you could possibly want in a host city.
2. Indianapolis: Surprise! Unless you’ve done a big event there, in which case it’s a no-brainer. It’s almost like a smaller, more convenient New Orleans: more than enough saloons/eateries/inns … and all walking distance from Lucas Oil Stadium. Plus, the Final Four here, especially, is a borderline religious revival.
3. Miami: South Beach. Sun in January/February. A party scene that is the equal of any city in the country. Now that Marlins Park exists, the Final Four is a possibility, too. When asking if a city belongs in the permanent rota, best to ask this: would anyone say no?
4. Dallas: This is entirely a nod to Jerry World, AT&T Stadium, which is without peer as a big-game facility. The Metroplex can handle the demand, and Dallas is an underrated city in terms of having a damn good time.
5. Wild card: This is where you throw the occasional bone to new stadiums in dull cities, and also to cities (Tampa, Phoenix, San Antonio) that have shown themselves to be good, but not elite, host cities.
It is zero surprise to look up and see Joe Mihalich and Hofstra sitting at 13-5, 4-1 in the Colonial, a game behind Charleston for first place. There is only one way to root here, and that is for the Pride to run the tournament table in early March. They’re owed at least one.
I am inexcusably behind on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” but can assure you I am furiously trying to catch up.
Good guys all around: Our man Jay Horwitz’s latest podcast is a conversation with Kevin Burkhardt, who’s gone from SNY to a killer career at Fox but still remembers his roots, and how much Gary Cohen helped him establish footing in his career. Fun listen.
Seeing Aaron Judge get a tidy $8 million recalls the answer Joe DiMaggio once gave when asked what he’d say to George Steinbrenner if he were negotiating a “modern” contract. “Hello, partner,” the Yankee Clipper said.
Whack Back at Vac
Ron Goydic: I just checked my homeowner’s insurance policy and found that I do not have a rider for wild boar accidents. Is this something I should consider?
Vac: Have you gone mad, sir? Get thee to a State Farm agent at once!
Tony Giametta: When both the Mets and Giants needed to come big with proven commodities (Joe Girardi, Mike McCarthy), they chose to go with unknowns Carlos Beltran and Joe Judge. Instant credibility took a back seat to more questions than answers.
Vac: I also would’ve gone with the Girardi/McCarthy parlay, but I’m also intrigued by both unknowns. Check back in a year to see how intrigued I still am …
@billyc147: Maybe the Giants’ new computer folks can help modernize them. Sears was old school. Now they are out of business. Wake up, Giants.
@MikeVacc: I miss the Sears Christmas Catalog every bit as much as I miss old Giants Stadium. Which is to say: A LOT.
Michael Miller: Everyone keeps saying the Patriots dynasty is dead. How is going 12-4 and winning the division a bad thing? I say Tom Brady plays two more seasons and wins one more ring.
Vac: If I were a betting man I’d throw down my chips with this.
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