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Hobbs: Being a great host is in New Orleans' DNA

Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 7:29 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

NEW ORLEANS — The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed (made up, actually) because I couldn’t spell them even if I could understand them.

But our scene opens in a hole-in-the-wall eatery/lounge called Yo Mama’s, right across the street from Pat O’Brien’s, where a distinguished-looking Canadian businessman with some sort of Super Bowl business to conduct this week is sitting at the bar, peering curiously at the menu.

Let’s call him George Eh, and before long he summons the bartender, pointing to a spot on the menu.

“This … gumbo? What would that be?”

She looks at him curiously.

“Gumbo? It’s gumbo. Very good.”

“Is it … a vegetable?”

“No, not really.”

A nearby local patron tries to help.

“Think of it as a soup …”

“Gumbo is NOT a soup,” the waitress quickly interrupts. “Never call gumbo a soup.”

“Then how would you describe it for me?”

“It’s gumbo. You know, FILET gumbo.”

“Eh, filet? So it’s like a steak?”

“No, it’s not a steak. Nothing like a steak. It’s … just gumbo.”

“Soup — but with rice in it.”

“It’s not SOUP!”

So, anyway, George Eh eventually orders a hamburger, amid a lot of groans from what has become a small but attentively curious audience.

But a few moments later the bartender returns with a sample-size plastic cup of, you guessed it.

“This is gumbo,” she says defiantly.

“Eh, yes,” he says, studying the small cup. “So it’s a stew.”

“Stew!” She slaps her forehead, throws up her arms and walks off.

But a few moments later, there’s a happy ending.

“Miss? Miss! Could I change that hamburger order.” He goes all in for the full-blown bowl of gumbo, and, amid a round of applause, New Orleans has itself another convert.

Gumbo today … who knows, maybe étouffée tomorrow? Sauce piquante for everybody by the weekend.

Son of a gun, there will be plenty of converts in the coming days.

To be honest, outside of the bustling media headquarters at the Morial Convention Center, where the innocent gawkers and professional autograph hounds alike are lined up outside for a glimpse of a Jerry Rice or an Emmitt Smith or a Mike Ditka — there’s not a lot of Super Bowl buzz around the city right now.

It’s a weeklong media fest and corporate showoff, perhaps, but for the vast hordes of fans it’s still basically a weekend event.

Wednesday night there were more state troopers on Bourbon Street than 49ers’ or Ravens’ jerseys.

Mostly just the usual local loonies, who are entertaining enough.

But the common fans were starting to trickle in Thursday, with the mass stampede sure to come Friday and Saturday.

New Orleans will be ready.

The city will be anxious to show, once again, why nobody throws a Super Bowl like this place and why the NFL was foolish to wait a dozen years since last putting up its circus tent here.

And why the real buzz around here is that it seems like a mere formality before New Orleans is awarded the next available Super Bowl, for 2018.

This, even though most of the French Quarter bars and restaurants have signs up forbidding their employees from serving “This Man,” who happens to be the league’s all-powerful commissioner.

An informal poll of visiting national media is near-unanimous that New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl host city. More than a few wouldn’t mind if it were moved here annually.

There are a lot of reasons New Orleans has no real peers.

But maybe you can sum them up best by the fact that an ongoing story line this week — and any week the Super Bowl butts up against the French Quarter — is which team can best avoid the city’s numerous distractions that aren’t part of the normal athletic training regimen.

When how one handles the tough decisions between being naughty and nice is considered a game key, you know you’re in the right place for a big event.

This is it.

So far both teams have quiet. Maybe too quiet.

History tells us you never know when a Jim McMahon might “moon” a television helicopter or a John Matuzak might appoint himself to stand watch over Bourbon Street until 5 a.m., just to make sure (he said) no impressionable teammates fall prey to the temptations.

Nobody worried about Dallas or Indianapolis nightlife enough to factor it into the game plan.

So this week is being heralded nationally as a massive, official coming-back party for the city once flooded into the Stone Age by Katrina.

In Louisiana, we know better, we know New Orleans has been back for a while now, but if the nation needs to hear it again, fine.

But I thought we already had that party when the Saints won the Super Bowl.

One of the statistics thrown out the most this week is that the city, which had had 809 restaurants before Katrina, now has 1,330, most of which serve gumbo.

In the last 13 months alone, New Orleans has hosted the BCS National Championship (the second since Katrina) a Final Four and now a Super Bowl, the ultimate test.

“We just love to host people,” said Ravens safety Ed Reed, who grew up in nearby St. Rose. “New Orleans loves to host people. It’s in our nature, in our blood.”

Better yet, New Orleans is curiously proud of its quirkiness, eager to show off the odd and downright lunatic-fringe relatives that other cities opening themselves up to world inspection might try to temporarily sweep under the rug.

New Orleans struts them right out there, eager to show off and just be its own funky self.

There are built-in advantages. Katrina may have altered the landscape, but it didn’t change the geography.

This is a compact party, perhaps the foresight of the city’s founding fathers who also had the vision to put the French Quarter on the highest ground, safe from flooding.

It’s still an easy walk from most downtown hotels to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and there’s still Bourbon Street and the rest of the French quarter within easy stumbling distance.

Nobody has to ask where the meeting place will be. New Orleans has a 300-year-old party central.

When the Saints were in Miami for the Super Bowl — it was actually closer to Fort Lauderdale — the party scene was at glitzy South Beach, which from the stadium was about like driving from here to Baton Rouge.

And, of course, there’s also the food.

Just ask my old buddy George Eh.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

Posted By: That's not even 10 miuntes well spent! On: 2/15/2013

Title: GoCWHYTUmWAZr

That's not even 10 miuntes well spent!

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