The Super Bowl brought crowds and drama to New Orleans. It also brought attention from the national press — not just on the football game, but on a city whose history is now entwined with the story of a hurricane, a flood, and a failure. The twin failures of the New Orleans levee system and of the government’s response to the catastrophe got another look in the press during Super Bowl week. Along with that, reporters cast an eye on the city itself — and on a comeback that, like the Forty-Niners fourth-quarter drive, seems to have come up short. The city has heart — but when it comes to rebuilding, can New Orleans put the ball in the end zone?
The New York Times took a look at the Ninth Ward through the eyes of retired NFL running back Marshal Faulk, who grew up in the Ninth Ward (“Where Waters Receded, Scars Remain,” by Jere Longman). Faulk sold popcorn in the Superdome as a youngster, and played there as a Los Angeles Rams fullback in Super Bowl XXXVI. With the Times, Faulk went back to take a look at George Washington Carver High School, his alma mater. “The area surrounding Carver is a jarring incongruity of rejuvenation and abandonment,” writes the Times. “The high school had about 1,300 students before Katrina and now has 375.”
“There was no locating the house near Carver where Faulk had lived with a friend in his later high school years,” the Times writes. “I could have shown you but it’s gone,” Faulk said.
“Super Bowl hype tends to obscure harsh truths about the host city,” Time chimes in (“In the Shadows of the Super Bowl, New Orleans Struggles,” by Sean Gregory). “Some things are markedly better,” says Allison Plyer, director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. “Some things are definitely not.”
“New Orleans lost 26% of its population since 2000,” Time notes. “The city has 360,740 people: in 2000, it had 484,674 people... The city has a poverty rate of 29%, nearly twice the national average of 15%.”
CBS reports, “Community leader Patricia Jones told CBS News' James Brown that in New Orleans, it is a tale of two cities: the city characterized by a refurbished Superdome and the tourist-jammed French Quarter versus the Lower Ninth Ward, the city's poorest area” (“New Orleans celebrates Super Bowl, but Lower Ninth still struggles”). "Count the years,” said Jones: “Eight. For us, that's real.”
The San Jose Mercury News presented a 34-frame photo slide show of the Ninth Ward, with modern solar-powered homes built by the Make it Right Foundation sitting cheek by jowl with piles of rubble and hulking wrecks still bearing the spray paint markings applied by emergency responders searching the flooded neighborhoods for survivors in 2005 (“New Orleans still rebuilding as the Crescent City hosts its first Super Bowl since Hurricane Katrina”). Resident Lisa Daniels, photographed sitting on her front stoop within eyeshot of an abandoned, decrepit building, said, "It's been 8 years and it still looks the same. It's really depressing to look at this."
“I’m going to be honest with you: It sucks here,” resident Christopher Weaver told AP sportswriter Paul Newberry (“New Orleans: A Tale of Two Cities Since Katrina”). “Just look across the street. Nothing. Look over there. Nothing.”
“Just a short ride from the French Quarter, in historic neighborhoods such as Treme and the Ninth Ward, it's not hard to find a virtual time capsule from the days when Katrina roared ashore,” Newberry writes. “On block after block, there are structures that look pretty much the same as they did after the water receded.”
But Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed said to Newberry, “New Orleans people, we've been through a lot. We love our city, man. We love to have a good time. We love for people to come have a great time with us." And Mayor Mitch Landrieu echoed that sentiment in an interview with CBS, saying: "I tell the people of New Orleans, just straight up, you have been blessed with being asked to bear the burden for generations to come. Our job is to build it back so those who come after us can do better."