I have been to New Orleans many times to cover sporting events. They include four Sugar Bowls, two Final Fours, a Super Bowl (the only one the Bears won, a 46-10 drilling of then-hapless New England in 1986), and a Saints’ playoff loss (heartbreaking for them and me).

The Saints’ playoff loss, on Jan. 3, 1988, was heartbreaking for them because, after a 12-4 regular season, they had spoiled their first playoff appearance in the franchise’s 21-year history, getting whipped by Minnesota (9-7) by a whopping 44-10.

It was heartbreaking for me because I had been planning a fine week in New Orleans, advancing the Saints’ meeting with the Bears. With New Orleans out, I had to grab a night-flight to Redskin Park because the Bears would play Washington. I can tell you, the food around Redskin Park did not compare with New Orleans cuisine.

But I digress.

I had only been to New Orleans once as a civilian, to use the term applied by scribes when they aren’t working.

That would have been many years ago, during my sophomore year in college. After a major storm left the snow so high that the streets and sidewalks of Madison, Wis., looked like World War I trenches-in-white, we were sitting around having a few beers and lamenting.

Someone said, “Hey, we can beat this. We can get in a car and drive to Mardi Gras.’’

And so we did. College attendance rules being lax in those days, we drove to Mardi Gras.

We arrived at dawn. Slept on the floor of a friend’s dorm room at Tulane until midday. Got some beer and caught the trolley to Bourbon St. Money being short, we never went inside any establishments. For several days.

We had a blast, in a drunken college sort of way.

When it poured, and it did, we got soaked. When the rain stopped, somebody blasted, “Here Comes the Sun,’’ on loudspeakers from a wrought-iron balcony while the mob below roared with delight.

 

While I enjoyed that Mardi Gras, old age—and my experiences at well-attended New Orleans sporting events—has tempered my interest in being in New Orleans when it’s over-run with people.

That changed last weekend, when I ended up on Bourbon St. for only the second time as a civilian. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.