Sorry, Minnesota and Indiana, you'll have to wait your turn. New Orleans, celebrating its 300th birthday in 2018, is the right choice to host the 52nd Big Game. Here's why it should get the nod, plus your mailbag questions
Update: Since the Tuesday mailbag was published, Super Bowl LII has been awarded to Minnesota.
No one is going to get too bent out of shape—outside of Louisiana, Indiana and Minnesota—when the NFL owners, who are meeting in Atlanta, likely will award Super Bowl LII on Tuesday. New Orleans, Indianapolis and Minneapolis are all worthy cities, and each will get a Big Game in the near future. But my vote is for New Orleans. My five reasons why the decision shouldn’t be that hard:
1. This could very well be Tom Benson’s last time appealing for a Super Bowl. Owners are usually empathetic toward one of their veterans making a case for the Super Bowl. In this case, they should realize Benson likely won’t be part of such a host committee again. He’ll be 90 when the game will be played. He hasn’t been in good health; he just had serious leg surgery last week. It’s the humanitarian thing to give a deserving city, and owner, the game. Now, some would say it was Paul Tagliabue, not Benson, who forced the team to stay when Katrina devastated New Orleans eight years ago. Doesn’t matter to me. What matters is what a good owner overall Benson has been, and especially in recent years, what a good man for the city of New Orleans he has been. Witness his $5 million donation to local hero/ALS sufferer Steve Gleason.
2. It’s New Orleans’ 300th birthday in 2018, when the game will be played. This is a city the NFL went to great lengths to support and protect after Katrina. How can the NFL not give New Orleans the game in this historic year? It’s just the right thing to do.
3. New Orleans has one of the best Super Bowl perks in memory planned for its presentation today. The league has been vocal in its support for a safety program at the youth level called “Heads Up Football.” And if New Orleans gets the game in 2018, the local hosts will build a multi-million-dollar Heads Up Football complex adjacent to the Saints’ training complex and offices in suburban Metairie, with four football fields and a complex that would be used, in part, to teach coaches and players safe methods of tackling and playing football. Very smart move by the New Orleanians. Often, Super Bowl host committees do something overly nice for the 31 other owners in the league. But this magnanimous gesture hits the NFL just where Roger Goodell would want: in its future.
4. No one ever doesn’t have a great time in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Perfect walking city. Perfect partying city. Perfect football city. More hotels in close proximity to its stadium than either other venue in this derby. And football helped save this city after the hurricane and the flooding. It’s fitting that in the biggest celebration in the city’s history will be kicked off by the biggest game in the biggest sport in America.
5. Indianapolis and Minneapolis are both worthy, but there’s no special significance to either getting the game in 2018. The lineup for future Super Bowls could easily be this: 2015 Arizona, 2016 San Francisco, 2017 Houston (all already awarded), and then 2018 New Orleans, 2019 Minneapolis, 2020 Indianapolis, 2021 San Diego if San Diego ever gets its stadium act together. Sounds right to me. Indianapolis and its compact and walkable downtown was a perfect host two-and-a-half years ago. Minneapolis gets a game by virtue of the northern-city-with-a-new-domed-stadium rule. But not in front of New Orleans.
I don’t think it’s much of a contest, personally. But we’ll see how the presentations and the debate goes today. I think there will be a hearty pro-Benson sentiment in the room in Atlanta.
Now for your emails this week:
COLD-WEATHER COMPROMISE. There are a lot of northern NFL cities that really have no hope of hosting a February Super Bowl. Why doesn't the league consider rotating the NFL draft among those cities that are unlikely to host a Super Bowl? It would be nice to see a city like Pittsburgh (home of six Lombardi trophies) get to host a marquee NFL event.
—Shawn Pecze, Raleigh, N.C.
That is an interesting idea. I believe that the NFL will more likely seek out cities to hold the draft that make it financially wise for the NFL to put the draft there. I think it’s probably more likely that some bigger cities, such as Chicago, will step to the plate with better financial packages to host the draft than Pittsburgh would. That is just a guess on my part but I am hearing Chicago is very aggressive to try to woo the draft there.
MY MISTAKE. I opened MMQB absolutely knowing you would say something about how the Saints signed Devon Walker, who was paralyzed for the remainder of his life when he collided with a teammate on the field in his senior year at Tulane. The Saints did the right thing by giving this honorable young man, who graduated from Tulane the day he was "signed" by the Saints, a contract that was, of course, only temporary. Given how you always look at the human side of football, I was disappointed you did not mention it.
I am glad that you did. That certainly was a mistake on my part, because Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton deserve credit for a wonderful humanitarian gesture. Thank you for pointing it out.
MIKE T'S MISTAKES. I was not aware that Mike Tannenbaum was now a sports agent. While I always thought he had incredible talent for negotiating, drafting and trading for players, I also believe that each Mike Tannenbaum success story ends very badly. I think each ending has to do with ego. Your thoughts?
—Jim S., San Diego
I don’t believe Tannenbaum’s ego got in the way. I believe, for instance, that in the case of Brett Favre, he saw the possibility of Favre playing a couple more years at a higher level than the quarterbacks the Jets employed at the time, and so he went all out to get Favre. You’re right; in the end it doesn’t seem like such a great deal. But before Favre was hurt that year, the Jets were one of the hottest teams in football, and Favre passed them to a Thursday night win at New England. The man made some mistakes, but that is not very different from every general manager who has ever worked in the NFL.
THE NFL'S MISTAKES? The NFL drug policy is odd. Regarding Robert Mathis, it seems clear that Clomid is a performance enhancing drug (based on WDA recommendations). Josh Gordon may be suspended for marijuana, which most everyone considers to not be a performance enhancing drug (if not performance detracting). Also, every NFL player is prescribed narcotics to help with pain management. Why does the NFL test for non-performance enhancing drugs regularly? If I look for an analogy in daily life, corporations test once before you are hired, and then never again unless for cause. I understand the NFL is conservative, but if they don't look for it, and the players don't do something foolish, nobody will know.
I believe the NFL is in the process of re-thinking how it deals with players who test positive for marijuana. At the very least, it is under consideration. But the fact is, the current rule mandates that players be disciplined after a second positive marijuana test. We can argue about how smart it is to make the discipline for marijuana similar to the discipline for much harder drugs. But it’s on the books that players will be hit hard with multiple marijuana positives. It doesn’t matter whether you or I agree with that, because it’s a rule. It might not be a rule for long, but it is now.
A POEM OFFER. I run a project at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA in which we invite poets to write in Emily Dickinson's bedroom, the creative space where she wrote over 1,800 poems. As you grew up in Springfield, only about half an hour from here, we'd love to have you write a haiku as part of this project. Love the MMQB!
—Michael, Amherst, Mass.
Wow. Michael, Believe me when I say I am not worthy. If you really want me to do this, I would be honored. I do not believe that Ms. Dickinson ever Haiku'd. But I should certainly try to honor her memory with a Dickinsonian Haiku.