By Deepa Singh–
Nervous energy reeks from the 73, 361 bodies in the Superdome as adrenaline flows through the veins of fans and experience-seekers. A few steps to my right, a Cardinals fan stands, fully immersed in the actions of the 10 men chasing a ball on the court six stories below. I hear him murmur, “Come on, team,” once, then a second time. An enthralled “yeah!” rips from his throat as he thrusts his fist aggressively into the air. To my right, a woman in a blue shirt whispers, “It’s alright, boys. Let them have that one.”
A referee’s shrill whistle sounds as he signals a time-out. I scan the arena, taking in my surroundings. How did I of all people end up here, in New Orleans, at what some would call the dream game? Befuddled, I phase out the chants and cheers and begin a recollection of my journey thus far:
A sound emanates from somewhere beneath the cottony clouds my head rests on. It is 2:47 a.m. on Friday, March 30. The voice on the phone provides me with enough motivation to slip out of bed to finish packing. I stumble about my dark enclave, stuffing remnants of the night before’s attempt at packing into a duffle bag. At 3:46 a.m., three University of Louisville students, plus one, embark on their journey to the great state of Louisiana.
The quiet of the road lulls the three passengers into a sleepy haze as the driver engages in a battle with the sleep attempting to invade. I awaken around 5 a.m. to the sight of a once national bench-pressing record holder adorned in a suit and facial piercings, cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth. People flinch as they pass this mash-up of Al Capone and Johnny Rotten – with long hair – to enter the gas station. Confused and amused, I lay my head once again to rest.
Slams of car doors snap me to a conscious state moments later. Through one window, I see miles of Alabama’s country greenery. Through another, I see a spaceship. In the backseat, I see an American soldier, head resting in the lap of the aforementioned mountain of a man. I shake my head in disbelief, unsure of which to believe – the spaceship or the grown man returned to the state of a child. A short break and a few roll tides later, we are back on the road.
Nearly five hours later, our Kentucky eyes are greeted with hints of paradise. A sky that truly is the shade of robin’s egg blue with grass that is as fresh as leaves of a mint plant dress the atmosphere. We are in Louisiana.
We unpack and relax in our room for a bit. Shenanigans ensue that night.
What else is to be expected from a world-famous place known by the name of Bourbon Street? Souvenir shops, bars and strip clubs line the narrow road as men, women and some who looked to be children sprinkle the road, armed with Hand Grenades – boasted as the strongest alcoholic beverage in all of New Orleans. Hurricane casualties stumble and fall. We stand at the edge, an orderly world to one side of us and debauchery on the other. We step into the madness, the turbid chaos enveloping us in seconds.
We walk, being greeted by faces both familiar and unfamiliar. We see an unfortunate man in in Louisville shirt, a drunken stagger leading him over to the Voodoo man. We watch in remorse as he hands every last dollar in his pocket over as an offering in hopes that the Cards will win.
We scuttle past, moving onto other sights that may await us. We don’t have to go too far as we soon spot an unusual sight up on a balcony of what looks to be a caterpillar on someone’s face. It looks like… No, it can’t be… But it is! Others join us in watching the infamous unibrow and its Anthony Davis squirm in their seat, Davis attempting to hide his face. A chuckle or two later, we move on.
We continue to wade through the sea of drunkards and beer that is flowing through the streets as it rains beads and fans chant for their teams. Hours and many other events later, we head back to our hotel.
It is now game day. We wake up at an hour that seems early to us only to find that the student tickets line seems to go on forever. We wait, wait and wait some more. We go from one line to another, doing chants, making friends and sharing Papa John’s pizza with Cats fans. By the time we are let into the stadium, we are as tired as can be. But we are ready for the game. It has been a long wait and the excitement is overwhelming.
Fast forward to the present. I sink back into the tough plastic of the stadium seat, smiling at the recount. This student ticket has been the best $25 I have ever spent.
Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal