Because it was better its value was recognized, and the old press box has been transformed into luxury suites.
If I was a regular attendee I’m sure I’d be disappointed too.
However, on the second-greatest night in history of the building, I was right where I was in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when I was a regular attendee.
I and the roof were one.
The sight lines were the same, the angles the same, but the noise was different. It was louder than in 1977 when fans filed out as Tampa Bay won for the first time in its two-year existence.
The noise was more joyful than it was in 1980, a 1-15 season, bags on heads and tears drawn on those bags with markers, hiding no doubt for some real tears on the inside.
Terrace-level seats were $10 back then, and you could get them at a Baton Rouge department store, D.H. Holmes, if you were a Denham Springs kid that didn’t make it to New Orleans much.
New Orleans has always loved its Saints but never more than now.
Growing up a Saints fan wasn’t about the thrill of the playoff chase, it was about trying to find a game on the schedule that the home team would win. Tampa Bay had lost its first 26 games and seemed a great choice. Archie Manning thought so, guaranteeing a win in advance.
Finally the playoffs came in 1987, but it would be another 13 years, some good, some bad, before a playoff win.
Super Bowl-winning coaches Hank Stram and Mike Ditka couldn’t do what a former assistant with no head coaching experience has done. Sean Payton has built a winner.
Five years ago Katrina almost swept away the team. The Superdome was in terrible shape after serving as a makeshift evacuation center. Los Angeles and San Antonio were beckoning.
The Saints remained, the organization embraced the city post-Katrina and has been a leader in the rebuilding effort.
After Saints fans spent years waiting for next year, next year finally came, and it was last year.
The Saints won the Super Bowl.
But before they beat New Orleanian Peyton Manning and the Colts, the Superdome had its greatest night when the Saints beat Brett Favre and the Vikings 31-28 in the Dome’s first NFC championship game.
In the rematch, Favre was missing a key weapon in Sidney Rice, his top receiver, and the Vikings were unimposing downfield.
The Vikings didn’t ask Favre to stand in the pocket as much as they did in January, so he avoided the same physical beating.
For the Saints, Drew Brees was effective not spectacular. Receivers didn’t catch some balls they could have, and Garrett Hartley’s missed field goals kept the Vikings in the game late. The Saints found a running game in the second half and chewed up some clock.
It was a 14-9 Saints win – ugly, but the crowd was still celebrating last year’s style points.
While Thursday night opened the 2010 NFL season, in this place the game was more about 2009.
It was the Saints’ first game back since leaving Miami as champions.
Three new 2009 banners hung in the north end zone, one for NFC South title, one for the NFC crown and the Super Bowl banner covered by a Verizon wireless blanket until just before the kick when it was unveiled, and the Dome rocked.
Had the noise been a wee bit louder perhaps the roof would have raised, and opportunists could have taken the press box a little higher.
There’s a different personality around the Saints now. Call their main switchboard, and the voice says, “World champion New Orleans Saints, may I help you?”
Like any championship team they face a crossroads. Staying at – or near – the top is harder than getting there. It’s unrealistic to think dynasty in the free agency era. Maybe the Saints can bottle their momentum and become a consistent playoff team. Put yourself in position every year, and the pendulum will swing back around to you.
For now, though, the Saints, who once could sink no lower, are higher than they’ve ever been and loving every minute of it.
Parrish Alford regularly covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about the Rebels at NEMS360.com.