Columnist gets second chance to cover New Orleans sports
In July 2005, I got my dream job. Todd Matherne, publisher of Biz New Orleans, was then the COO of MC Media. He called one late June afternoon to see if I had any interest in joining him and Errol Laborde in launching a weekly sports newspaper.
My interest was beyond piqued. A life-long Saints fan, I went to graduate school at Ole Miss, not because their journalism program is so highly regarded academically, but because it meant I’d get to witness two seasons with Eli Manning leading the Rebels to heights they had not reached since his father, Archie, quarterbacked the Rebels in the early 1970s.
When I received Todd’s call, it seemed like more than a job offer. It was as if my calling was being revealed. I was working for a local business publication and had just been recognized with a national award for an article on the financial impact of New Orleans Hornets building their practice facility downtown or in eastern New Orleans. All indications pointed to a happy career covering professional and amateur sports in the region. It was a dream come true.
That summer, our art director, Catherine Todd, now founder of Where Ya Art, and I built the paper from scratch, received credentials from professional and collegiate sources, hired a staff of writers and photographers and got the paper launched in less than two months. Our first issue rolled off the press and hit the street on Thursday, August 25. My bachelor party was scheduled for that weekend, so I took Friday as a vacation day to celebrate with my best man before the groomsmen came in town to party on Saturday. I felt as if I was sitting on top of the world.
With the launch and the festivities, I hadn’t paid much attention to the news. We pulled an all-nighter on Friday, getting back to the hotel suite around 5:30 a.m. My joyous ignorance was shattered 30 minutes later with a call from my fiancé.
“My bridal portraits got cancelled,” she wailed into the phone.
“Why?” I asked, red-eyed and shaking off the cobwebs of an interrupted 15-minute nap.
“Because of the hurricane.”
I turned on the television to see Margaret Orr frantically describing the monster storm which seemed to take up the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico. Two days later, New Orleans was destroyed by the flood resulting from failed storm protections. With no advertisers in town, New Orleans Sports Extra met an untimely death one issue into publication.
The dream was dashed, but the sports landscape after the storm was forever changed. The Saints won the Super Bowl (I still get giddy just typing that sentence), LSU won its third football national championship, the Hornets became the Pelicans and seem to be on the upswing, The Louisiana Superdome became the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Tulane built an on-campus stadium after 40 years of playing in the CBD.
When Renaissance Publishing decided to republish Biz New Orleans after a nine year break, it was a no-brainer to add my name to the roster. Someone wants to pay me to cover sports! But it is also a bit of a homecoming. The original Biz staff, journalists who I admire for their talent and loyalty, was seated next to Sports Extra’s staff. While we have new leadership, it feels as comfortable as sliding on an old baseball glove. I hope to engage my audience, make you think critically about sports and its role in our society. And I also hope we have fun. After all, it’s only a game.