7th Heaven

Brees kicks off a helluva week for New Orleans sports
all images from the associated press

WOW! What an amazing week! Sports fans across the region have brazen grins today as we head into a weekend that features one of college football’s biggest annual games. Saints captain Drew Brees and new kicker Kai Forbath started the week on the right foot, the Crescent City is emerging as a soccer city, and the biggest news of the week, New Orleans was awarded the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship. Meanwhile, anticipation has built for two weeks for Saturday when LSU and Alabama square off in a match-up that could decide the SEC West.


2020 Vision

            Earning the privilege to host the College Football Playoff National Championship game was a huge win for New Orleans. The city recently experienced a loosing streak, missing out in the last round of bidding for the Super Bowl, CFP championship and NCAA Final Four. Jeff Hundley, executive director of the New Orleans Host Committee, said this year’s winning bid was “double the financial offer we made the last go around.”

            It is estimated that as many as 150 million Americans – nearly half of the country’s population – watch part of the broadcast of Big 3 events. The value of advertising that comes with the game telecast, not to mention the hype on major broadcast networks, cable, the web and social media before and after the game, is priceless for the city.

            The first CPF National Championship, played in January, created a $308.6 million economic impact for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. That’s an influx of cash that has been missed, and I speak for many when I say I’m sure glad it’s coming back.

            The title game will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 13, 2020. The championship game will be in played in Glendale, Ariz., in 2016, Tampa, Fla., in 2017, Atlanta in 2018 and the Santa Clara, Calif., in 2019. New Orleans last hosted a college football championship in 2011 when Alabama beat LSU, 21-0. The city will host a CFP semifinal game in 2018.


Don’t Call It A Comeback

            It’s almost as if Saints head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees had access to Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s playbook before their game last Sunday, an instant classic resulting in a last second 52-49 Saints win. Spagnuolo, of course, was in the same role for the Saints in 2012 before being shown the door after just one season.

            The Saints ran up 608 yards of offense on New York, with Brees finishing with eye-popping stats – 39-of-50 passing, 504 yards, an NFL-record tying seven touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 131.7 quarterback rating. He started with a 34-yard TD to Willie Snead on a perfectly executed a flea-flicker halfway through the first quarter before hitting Brandin Cooks on a 26-yard TD, Marques Colston on a 53-yard TD, Willie Snead on a 2-yard TD, Cooks 21-yard TD, Benjamin Watson 20-yard TD, and C.J. Spiller on a 9-yard TD with 41 seconds left in the game to tie it at 49.

            The Saints defense needed just 20 seconds to force the Giants to punt. After a 24-yard return across midfield, Marcus Murphy fumbled. The ball fell to Snead, whose facemask was pulled when he was tackled. That set up newly signed kicker Forbath for his first kick with the team, a 50-yard game winner as the clock ran out.

            In my column for Biz New Orleans this month, I argued that big changes would have to come for the Saints to be successful. Maybe they just need time to get healthy, accustomed to one another and jell.

Having won four of five after an 0-3 start that ignited all kinds of predictions about the demise of the Sean Payton-Brees era.


Get Your Kicks

            I’ve been following international soccer since the 1990 World Cup in Italy. In that time I’ve watched the sport grow. The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994; I got to see Nigeria play Bulgaria in Dallas. It was an amazing experience. It was also, unfortunately, the last major soccer game I’ve attended. That will change on Dec. 16 when the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion U.S. Women’s National Team will face China PR in the Superdome in the final match of the 10-game post-Women’s World Cup Victory Tour.

            Tickets went on sale to the general public on Tuesday; by Thursday fans had purchased more than 20,000 tickets for the game. This is significant because combined ticket sales for the other three December matches – Sunday, Dec. 6, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu; Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Alamodome in San Antonio; Sunday, Dec. 13, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. – have just more than 31,000 sold.

            The U.S. Women have played in New Orleans just once before, in 2003 at Tad Gormley Stadium.

            The match against China PR in New Orleans will be a rematch of the quarterfinal at the 2015 Women’s World Cup that was won 1-0 by the United States in Ottawa, Canada, on a goal from Carli Lloyd. It will kick-off at 7 p.m. and be televised by FOX Sports 1. 

            Tickets for the game are available at ussoccer.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 or through Ticketmaster and the Smoothie King Center box office (open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

            This game will be special because it will be the last time Abby Wambach, the leading scorer in the history of international soccer and one of the world’s all-time greatest players, takes the field. Wambach, 35, will end her brilliant 15-year international career with the game in New Orleans. Her 184 goals are the most scored by any man or woman in international soccer. 

            She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women's World Cup champion, six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, and the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year.

            Congratulations on your retirement, Abby.



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