Sweet As Can Be

By Adam Caparell - January 02, 2007

NEW ORLEANS - You can't go more than 10 seconds in this town without seeing someone clad in either bright purple and yellow or green and navy.

The Crescent city is alive with the backdrop of the Sugar Bowl looming in just one short day. On BCS bowl No. 3 Eve, nearly all of the thousands of LSU and Notre Dame fans have arrived and with fairly favorable weather, they are out in full force.

Down at the Riverwalk, surrounding beautiful Jackson Square and up and down the intricate little roads that make up the French Quarter - with the venerable Bourbon Street right in the middle of it all - Tiger Talk and Irish Eyes are locked - and soon to be loaded - for Wednesday's game.

The city itself seems to be in good shape, but then again this is my first time being here. Ask those who have been here before - and the locals - and they'll say the city just isn't the same. And there's plenty of evidence of that.

Businesses all over the city are vacant, hoping to reopen or are desperately in search of help. Restaurant after restaurant have help wanted signs posted on their front doors. Store fronts sit empty, waiting for someone to come along and open something the public can embrace.

In the central business district and the French Quarter and the RIverwalk - the main tourist areas of the city - there's almost no discernable evidence that the worst natural disaster in American history took place only a year and a half ago. It's a different story making your way into town.

Along the highways, right near where the levies failed in catastrophic proportions, there's a line running along the sound barriers. It's the water line that marks the point where water stood still for three months after Katrina hit at the end of August 2005. The Hyatt, one of the first buildings visible when making your way into town, still has damanged windows waiting to be repaired. Another building shows considerable scaring from Katrina with windows still open to the elements, showing how some cuts this city took are far from healing.

The theme around town is "Sweet Revival." After moving the Sugar Bowl to Atlanta last year, the city's signature football game has returned to its home and it's spurring activity all over. People are spending money, the shops are open, ready and willing to help you in any way possible. Cafe de Monde - the famous French Market cafe - was packed this afternoon with fans, tourist and regulars alike.

I stopped in for a hot chocolate. It was cool this morning, but it gradually warmed up. So did my feelings and affection toward this city as I walked andI walked and walked around, taking in all that I could, thinking about what had happened, how far the citizens had come and how you can't do anything but root for it to stand back up, tall and proud.

And then I'd see the purple and green and think to myself how lucky I was. I'm down covering the Sugar Bowl in a city that has some really charming qualities to it, reveling in all it has to offer to me and so many for the very first time. Katrina seems nothing more than a name at times to me and undoutedly others as we come in for only a few short days. There's isn't much talk of the nightmare - the evidence is hiding in other neighborhoods only a select few will see.

But New Orleans looks like it's doing alright - from my shallow perspective. You hear the stories and read the articles about all that's wrong with it. But for a few days this week, everything's going to seem right. College football's playing the role in that. Notre Dame and LSU are serving a much bigger purpose than they probably realize.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 05:38 PM on January 02, 2007

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