Twenty-three years ago in New Orleans, I took a 18-hour airplane-and-rental car trip, ate plenty of cajun food, stayed in a horrific hotel and watched the San Francisco 49ers steamroll the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.
When the 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII next week, I’ll be farther from the action, but less creeped out by my sleeping arrangements.
In 1990, I covered the game for the Daily Republic – a 55-10 beatdown of the Broncos that featured five touchdown passes by Joe Montana, in the fullness of his Hall of Fame career. More than the game, though, I remember a red-eye plane flight, a long drive across Texas and Louisiana and four nights in the aforementioned fleabag hotel at a cost of more than $200 per night.
Ah, New Orleans.
The adventure started a few days after the 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams to advance to to give them a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. Rick Jensen, the newspaper’s city editor, and I asked newspaper management if we could cover it. They OK’d it – if we only missed a few days of work in the office.
It was too late to coordinate our trip with the NFL, so we were on our own. By the time we got approval, there were no flights into New Orleans and no reputable hotel rooms available.
Who cares? We adjusted, flying into Houston after leaving San Francisco at 1:25 a.m. Thursday and renting a Subaru to drive five hours across the bayous to New Orleans.
Along the way, we ate in rural Henderson, La., where a man asked what we were doing on our way to “N’Awlins.” After we told him our jobs, he looked at Rick – who had long hair – and said “you look like a journalis’. You got dat long hay-ah.”
Arriving in New Orleans late Thursday, we picked up our press credentials at the NFL headquarters, then found our hotel – the Superdome Inn, which charged us $220 per night.
It seemed lowbrow, but we knew that other reporters were staying there. The elevator didn’t work, so we walked up dark stairways and down partially lit hallways to our room.
The walls were stained, with paint peeling. The dresser drawers had clothes in them – perhaps from a “working girl” who used it as a base of operations. The sink and shower had partially clogged drains. The water looked dirty coming out of the tap.
But it was the Super Bowl!
Rick and I spent the minimum amount of time in the hotel – sleeping on top of the covers and taking super-quick showers. Each time I returned to the room – Rick stayed out later at night than me – I expected to find somebody in my room. But it was probably too skeezy for anyone to do that.
The weekend was a blur – trips to Bourbon Street, press conferences, trips to Bourbon Street, writing a bunch of stories, Rick getting free stuff at corporate events, more trips to Bourbon Street, media events, more stories, more trips to Bourbon Street, a football game.
It was fun. We attended nearly everything that we could. We filed our stories by old Radio Shack TRS-80 computers (nicknamed “trash 80s”) that required a phone line and luck. We saw everything we could – heck, we were young, we had energy! We slept little, partly because of activity, mostly because of the frightening condition of our hotel room.
On Sunday, the 49ers crushed the Broncos. My main memories of the game are how small the stadium appeared while inside (it was the first domed stadium I visited) and how much better the 49ers were than the Broncos.
On Monday, we flew home – exhausted, grateful for the opportunity and knowing we needed to be at work on Tuesday.
The 49ers were Super Bowl champs, but Rick and I felt like the real winners: We survived several nights in the Superdome Inn without being assaulted or catching an infectious, contagious disease.
Talk about super!
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.