Super Super Bowls in New Orleans

A local history of the big game

Super Bowl XII, in 1978, was the first time the game was played in the Superdome, and the Cowboys beat the Broncos 27-10. It was also the first time the game was played in prime-time, and the first (and only) time two people received MVP honors (Dallas’ Randy White and Harvey Martin). The Southern University marching band led the pregame festivities, accompanied by cheerleaders from both playing teams. Al Hirt and Pete Fountain led the halftime entertainment in a production titled “From Paris to Paris of America.” Image provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library, Louisiana Division.

With Super Bowl XLVII, New Orleans ties Miami for the most prolific Super Bowl Host City, at 10 each. The Louisiana Superdome – now Mercedes-Benz Superdome – is the clear winner of host stadiums at seven games. Tulane Stadium, where the first three local Super Bowls were played, is tied for third place.

The first local Super Bowl – IV, 1970 – was fought hard for by Mayor Victor Schiro and his politically connected task force. But it was lagniappe that brought the game to New Orleans: Al Hirt’s trumpet playing. After wowing the owners at the bid party, his offer to play the Super Bowl halftime show free of charge was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Game tickets cost $15, and the entertainment alone was worth the admission. Al Hirt and Doc Severinsen faced off in a “Battle of the Horns,” which was followed by two hot-air balloons lifting off for a race. One balloon crashed into the stands instead (the only injury was a member of the princess’ court suffered a broken leg). Halftime featured Carol Channing and the Southern University Marching Band in a tribute to Mardi Gras, complete with a mini-parade.

The most recent New Orleans-hosted Super Bowl – XXXVI in 2002 – was also full of firsts. It was the first Super Bowl after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and it was by far the most patriotic and emotional event in its history. The attacks caused the date of Super Bowl to be moved back a week, which in turn created another first for New Orleans: the first time Mardi Gras festivities were paused for a week to accommodate the sporting event. The halftime show featuring U2 included a few firsts as well: the first time a single act performed the halftime show alone, and the first time the music was performed live, rather than lip-synched to prerecorded music.

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