Many among the Saints faithful had Feb. 3 marked on their calendars for a long time.
Super Bowl Sunday — in Atlanta of all places — looked to be a date with destiny for the Saints this season. That destiny was denied, but Sunday is still shaping up to be an epic day, in New Orleans at least.
Following the controversial result of the NFC Championship game, the city has invented a dense itinerary for itself, as if all the momentum building up for a Super Bowl celebration has been rechanneled to creative Super Bowl derision.
There’s the downtown concert dubbed the Boycott Bowl, an Uptown block party called the Anti-LIE Bowl Party and at least three Saints-inspired second line-style parades. Then there are various shenanigans cooked up by countless bars, restaurants and clubs around the Who Dat Nation, many of which will air a tape of the 2010 Super Bowl that the Saints won instead of this year’s game that many fans believe the Saints were unjustly denied.
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Throwing shade at the Super Bowl is the central idea — boycotting the broadcast of America's biggest sports event. But this could never end with the passive resistance of simply not watching the game, not in a city that takes to the streets for its biggest parties and treats public satire as a civic duty.
“This is how we win,” said Travis Laurendine, one of the Boycott Bowl organizers.
“The no-call? It’s over. What I care about now is our city and that we do something that represents our city in a classy way," he said. "Let’s show the world what New Orleans is about and how we respond. Let’s put our musicians and our culture in the spotlight instead of watching the Rams and the Patriots in the Super Bowl.”
Boycott Bowl started with a frustrated Facebook post by Laurendine’s buddy Brandon Rizzuto the night of the Saints-Rams game. There was no plan, just a feeling that poor officiating had robbed the Saints of a Super Bowl appearance, and the conviction that the fans shouldn’t take it quietly. Soon, thousands of people were signaling their agreement and asking for details.
Rizzuto is not in the events business. He sells roofing materials for a living. But others stepped up to mold the idea, including Laurendine, a concert promoter and producer. They secured a location, Fulton Street — downtown between Girod and Lafayette streets — and bands lined up to take part.
The schedule now has enough local talent to fill a festival, including Choppa, Kermit Ruffins, Big Freedia, Rockin' Dopsie, Shamarr Allen, Fred Leblanc of Cowboy Mouth, Partners-N-Crime and The Big EZ Band, Flow Tribe, Dash Rip Rock, the Vettes, Ricky B, 5th Ward Weebie, Saràyah, Denisia, Hot Boy Ronald and DJ Raj Smoove.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the New Orleans Recreation Development Foundation to support youth sports in the city.
“We would love to be planning our trips to Atlanta and not a boycott bowl,” Rizzuto said. ”But given what happened, I think what we have in New Orleans on Sunday will be better than anything happening there.”
Blotting it out
From the basic idea of a blotting out this year’s Super Bowl, people have built their own parties and parades. All are grass-roots events, ginned up quickly over the past two weeks by fans and local businesses themselves, some in partnership with local nonprofits.
There is some self-awareness of the stakes and the scale of the calamity, which after all, revolves around a bad officiating call in a sporting event. But in New Orleans, with the Saints, self-awareness often leads full circle to a fuller embrace of the team.
“It’s like we’re all sharing the same heart right now,” said Amy Sins, organizer of Uptown’s Anti-LIE Bowl Party. “New Orleanians are identifying like the way we did when we won the Super Bowl. Everyone in New Orleans loved each other then. Now, it’s like we’re all unified in our anger, and we're working it out with our humor."
Sins, a chef known for marshaling local hospitality professionals to assist in disaster response, found eager collaborators for her event. From its home base around the Dat Dog restaurant on Magazine Street, it has become a block party, drawing in nearby businesses, from other eateries to a tattoo parlor with a special deal for fans who want to preserve their ire in ink.
There’s a dunking booth for refs, a “Choppa Style” dance-off with local dance troupes and the marching band from nearby Sophie B. Wright High School to lead a parade. Son of a Saint, which supports fatherless boys in New Orleans, and the Second Harvest Food Bank will be the beneficiaries.
Just down Magazine Street, Tracey’s Original Irish Channel Bar declared its own Super Bowl boycott just a day after the Saints' defeat. It will show highlights of great Saints games all day (and a rival’s epic fail … think 28-3), while boiling crawfish and hosting the Mardi Gras Indian band Cha-Wa. It's all pre-gaming before queuing up a 2010 Super Bowl replay.
“The whole town’s demeanor is off; we're still feeling it," said Tracey's proprietor Jeff Carreras. "Maybe with a big blowout we can finally get over it."
Across town in Mid-City, the Holy Ground Irish Pub will get physical, starting the day with a game of touch football on the neutral ground outside. Later, the bar will screen a version of the Super Bowl that might have been: a Madden NFL video game match-up between the Saints and the Chiefs.
"You're not going to keep us from having a good time," said Holy Ground manager John Latour. "We can do it ourselves. This is New Orleans, come NFL or high water."
Miel Taproom and Brewery has staked out a unique niche: It will air the actual live Super Bowl, but also issue special bingo cards for Saints fans to track mishaps that befall both the Rams and the Patriots, like fumbles and missed field goals.
“If possible, it would be ideal if both teams could find a way to lose,” brewery co-founder Alex Peyroux said with a wry chuckle.
Meanwhile, the taproom at Port Orleans Brewing is turning its Super Bowl Sunday over to the dogs, airing the Animal Planet’s popular “Puppy Bowl” on the big screens and inviting Animal Rescue New Orleans to bring adoptable pets for a fundraiser before its own 2010 Super Bowl replay. (Brewery co-owner Zach Strief played for the Saints during the team's one Super Bowl appearance.)
Others are channeling the chip on Saints fans’ shoulders into charitable campaigns. Boycott Bowl, for instance, has extended its NORD Foundation fundraiser to other bars and restaurants hosting their own events. Tracey’s and Blue Oak BBQ, another spot showing the Saints' Super Bowl instead of the current one, have pledged a portion of the day’s proceeds in solidarity with Boycott Bowl.
There is an undeniable economic consideration for the businesses involved. Saints wins in general buoy local spending, and a Super Bowl berth would likely have been a boon, especially for bars and clubs. Boycott parties are a chance to wring something from the team’s defeat.
But they are also clearly tapping into a common sentiment around town, the subject of constant conversations and ongoing complaints. John Blancher, proprietor of Rock 'n' Bowl, said that when he started planning his own Anti-Goodell Protest Bowl, a Sunday party to show the 2010 Super Bowl, local bands started calling him to take part.
“Everyone wants to do something. They feel like they have to be part of it," said Blancher. "The motivating factor is to have our own damn party and not buy into this Super Bowl deal. Like, damn it, you don’t steal this from us and tell us what to do."
Rock 'n' Bowl's music lineup includes Bag Of Donuts, Dr. Rock, Tin Star and Abdul D. Tentmaker, who penned a new song after the Saints defeat titled “Bulls***” (to the tune of “Love Stinks”). Al Scramuzza, the "crawfish king" of yore, will narrate his old TV commercials to replace the Super Bowl ads.
"We just want to try to make this as New Orleans as possible and get a smile out of it," said Blancher.
Sins hopes her Anti-LIE Bowl Party and all the other events around town serve as a catharsis for the city, which needs to get on with the next event on its calendar: Mardi Gras.
“We need to have closure,” Sins said. “We need to get over it so we can move on to Mardi Gras and not have all this mixing of our parties.”