Commentary: Super Bowl gives New Orleans 'closure'

The Super Bowl is back home. So is Ed Reed.

In the early years of the Super Bowl, New Orleans was a regular stop on the circuit. Four times in the 1970s, it was played here, but since 2002 it's gone missing. Reed is delighted it has returned.

"I can't explain it. I'm really speechless," Reed said.

The Louisianan will have a chance to visit his mother today and is overwhelmed at the idea of playing here. Reed said he couldn't possibly fulfill all the requests he has for tickets and hotel rooms.

"I could fill the Superdome," he said.

Reed was one of six Baltimore Ravens who had their own tables on Monday, and it wasn't his first time. In 1997, he was a finalist in the Punt, Pass & Kick contest, and he came to media day.

Now, Reed's here for the first time, and the Super Bowl is back for the 10th time, far more than anywhere else. It's been in Jacksonville, Detroit and Indianapolis since 2002, and now following years of rebuilding after Katrina in 2005, the Super Bowl has finally returned.

"This is special. To go to my first Super Bowl in New Orleans and play in my first Super Bowl in New Orleans, I just want to do it for the city," Reed said. "It's awesome."

Six days before Sunday was a quiet time in New Orleans, except for the participants. A walk around downtown was uneventful and the French Quarter had few tourists except for the blocks where CBS and ESPN set up studios for the week.

There was hyped enthusiasm, and it will grow more intense as the game gets closer. Tourists don't arrive in Super Bowl cities six days before the game, but the Ravens did.

After a tumultuous sendoff at the Inner Harbor, the Ravens flew here.

"The fans were crazy," coach John Harbaugh said.

By Friday, the fans will crowd the streets of the French Quarter where Archie Manning, arguably the most popular man in town, walked unrecognized on his way to another television interview.

The French Quarter has changed much since Katrina. Drawn by impossibly cheap housing, young artisans flocked here. With the Super Bowl doing the impossible, shifting Mardi Gras, there were few signs of football in the area except for a woman carrying her dry cleaning wearing a "Free Payton" T-Shirt.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's yearlong suspension as part of "Bountygate" was lifted last week by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The fans, players and media will try to enjoy New Orleans.

Political consultant James Carville, who's playing a key role on the city's Super Bowl welcoming committee, put it best.

"You're not just visiting a city, you're visiting a culture," Carville said. You're visiting a place that unlike any other city in the world, has its own music, it has its own food, we have our own funerals, we have our own social structure, we have our own body of literature. We have our own architecture."

After Katrina hit, it seemed unlikely that the Super Bowl would ever return. The Superdome was damaged, and the Saints became a traveling road show for the 2005 season, playing in San Antonio and Baton Rouge, La. The NFL was steadfast in its commitment to making sure the Saints wouldn't move.

It took seven more years for the Super Bowl to return, but talk of Katrina and the damage is still around. This game is vital in helping finally erase the memories.

"If it goes well, we can put this thing behind us," Carville said. "We hope it can bring some closure."

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