Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

No Competition: My Super Bowl Favorite

It’s not a battle between equals, despite what many want us to think. At this point in the season, the conventional wisdom goes, only the two best remain. But the truth is there is always a favorite and always an underdog. In some cases, like this year, the underdog doesn’t stand a chance. There is simply no way for them to win. Game over, before it even starts. The sentimental favorite just isn’t in the same league, which is why I’m cheering for them. Were they to win the city from whence they have come would be uplifted in an unimaginable fashion. They city and its people, much maligned and trod upon, would be sustained for the forseeable future – or at least until next season – and everyone can again begin to believe in miracles. This year, the team from city with so much against it deserves to win.

I’m talking, of course, about the Indianapolis Colts.

What, you say? How can I cheer against the New Orleans Saints, after all the city and residents have been through? How can I turn my back on the music, the food, the culture, and cheer for the dominant team of the last few years – the one everyone expects to win? Why Indianapolis wasn’t even founded until well over 100 years after New Orleans. How can I justify such a decision?

Really, it’s easy. Take everything listed above – remove it – and you’re left with a city looking much like Indianapolis. It is the very depth of New Orleans culture and history that argues most strongly against cheering for them in the Super Bowl. Don’t misunderstand me, New Orleans has been smacked down in a way no modern American city has experienced. The people have been driven out, entire sections of town made almost unlivable, and the psychological scars go even deeper. But anyone who has watched from afar has remarked on the resiliency of the Big Easy’s residents. With the deck stacked against them they are trying to come back. Against all odds, they are moving forward one step at a time.

Indianapolis, like New Orleans, was formerly a swamp. However, turning a water-logged marshland into a viable city seemed to create a different type of psyche up North than it did down South. Maybe it was the cold winters or maybe it was the proximity to the industrialized North. Let’s face it, it takes a certain amount of arrogance to found a city 5 feet below sea level. The highest elevation in New Orleans is a mere 15 feet above level, and the city gets over 60 inches of rain every year. That doesn’t bode well for keeping one’s belongings dry on a regular basis. Indianapolis, on the hand, ranges from 650-over 900 feet above sea level and suffers a scant 40 inches of rain a year – though the average of 23 inches of snow argues for its own kind of resiliency. But in spite of its struggles, New Orleans has developed a vibrant culture that has impacted the entire country. From the rhythms of Congo Square to the culinary stardom as such chefs as Paul Pruhomme, John Besh and Emeril Lasasse (yes I know Emeril is from Falls River, MA, but he has adopted the city as his own). Emeril has been everywhere this week, cooking on Good Morning America, appearing at his restaurant in Miami, and generally serving as the kind of ambassador one would expect from the city’s most recognizable face.

Still think Indianapolis is the better town? Look in your kitchen, right now. How many products from Indiana can you find? How many of you are cooking gumbo, jambalaya, or crawfish for your tailgate party today? When was the last time you ate “Indianapolis style” cuisine. I’m not ever sure there is such a thing, other than maybe Steak and Shake which has it’s headquarters there. I have friends and family in Indiana, they even shared some of their tailgating recipes with me for today. Not a one of them is cooking anything labeled “Indiana Proud”. Several, even through they are cheering for the Colts, are having an early Mardi Gras crawfish boil. When you cheer for one team but cook the quentessential food of the other, there really isn’t much left to say. Indianapolis cuisine = corn anyone?

Speaking of Mardi Gras, no matter how badly losing the Super Bowl might be to the team and the town, the fact remains there is one big damn party scheduled for next week in New Orleans and any pain the loss may cause will largely be forgotten when the drinks start for flow. Were the game played next Sunday and Indianapolis were to win, the Colts would be faced with the very real possibility of having their victory parade take place in a snow storm while the rest of the country partied with the losers on Bourbon Street. Talk about getting no respect! The party in the Big Easy will go on regardless of the final score, and the music will still be some of the best and most original in the world. The culture and the people will continue to intrigue and inspire writers, novelists and travelers of every kind.  The outcome of one football game will disappear into 400 years of the city’s history, washed away as if by the ever flowing waters of the Mississippi.

If Indianapolis loses I seriously fear for the sanity of the city. The residents up North, unlike their Southern counterparts, have no real indigenous cuisine except for some degree of co-responsibility with the rest of the Midwest for unleashing “Fair Food” on the rest of us. Who’s ready for a deep fried Snickers? Likewise, the city has no history of great music – John Mellencamp doesn’t count because he’s just one guy and is from Seymour, not Indy. Basically Colts fans will have nothing to look forward to except yet another winter snow storm. If you are celebrating Mardi Gras in Indianapolis you are probably going to freeze your rear off – and you’d be missing the point.

This is why I’ll be secretly cheering for the Colts, and why they have to win. In short, Indianapolis has everything to lose tonight. Their fans will be left to wallow in their own midwestern sorrow until next season, the next snow storm, or the next mediocrity comes around. The people of New Orleans, on the other hand, will persevere. They have always persevered. Just watch your TV tonight when the network shows the obligatory shots from Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. Compare those to the scenes from Indianapolis. Who is having more fun?

Where would you rather be?

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