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New Orleans Saints fan James Carville talking up Big Easy

Posted on Feb 5, 2010 in Local Issues, Sports

By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune February 05, 2010, 1:00AM FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - If there is such a thing as a Who Dat prototype, James Carville would be it. The Ragin' Cajun is witty, passionate, colorful and endearing. james_carville.jpgTed Jackson/The Times-PicayuneSuper Bowl XLVII host James Carville works radio row at the Super Bowl Media Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., talking with Sirius Radio peronality Adam Schein on Thursday.The political strategist and commentator has lived and died with the New Orleans Saints since their inaugural season in 1967, when he attended games on weekends while working toward a law degree at LSU. And like any longtime Saints fan, Carville's passion masks a deep-seated insecurity, formed from years of heartbreaking losses. He admitted Thursday he was pessimistic before Garrett Hartley's winning field goal split the uprights against the Vikings in the NFC championship game. "I didn't think the ball was going to go through, " Carville said. To the delight of Carville and his wife, political pundit and converted Saints fan Mary Matalin, it did. Now the duo can attack their promotional duties as co-chairs of the New Orleans Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee with clear consciences. "All I could think about was I have to go to Miami for five days, it's going to be a Vikings-Colts game and I'm going to be sick to my stomach, " Carville said. "That's the last thing I want to do is go do all this promotional stuff for the city, all these meetings. Now (it's) wow -- nirvana." Accordingly, Carville worked the Super Bowl XLIV press center like a whirling dervish Thursday. Now a full-time New Orleans resident, he spread the gospel to every live mike in the building, from ESPN to Sporting News to NFL Network. The highlight came during Carville's radio show on Sirius XM, where WWL radio talk show host Bobby Hebert roused the sleep-deprived print journalists with a raucous rendition of the Who Dat chant. On the set of the NFL Network, he proselytized to "Total Access" host Rich Eisen and analysts Warren Sapp and Jim L. Mora. "We're not just a city, " said Carville, dressed in a tan NOPD hat and yellow Super Bowl XLVII shirt. "We're a distinct and developed culture. We have our own music, our own food, our own language, our own funerals, our own architecture and our own literature. . . . Unless you are part of that culture, you can't understand it." The world, Carville said, will understand just how distinctive the New Orleans culture is when it comes to town for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. South Florida eclipsed New Orleans as the most frequent host city for the league's annual showcase event. This is the 10th time the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area has hosted the Super Bowl. New Orleans has played host nine times. No. 10 is coming in 2013. But if Carville has his way, New Orleans once again will regain its spot in the regular Super Bowl rotation. That would be welcomed news for many journalists, who have endured exorbitant round-trip cab fares and hour-long shuttle bus rides between venues this week. A round-trip from the Colts' hotel in Fort Lauderdale Beach to the Saints hotel in downtown Miami to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens covers almost 70 miles. The distance drastically dilutes the buzz. They're playing a big football game Sunday, but it'd be difficult to tell in Fort Lauderdale, where the press center is wedged into a jungle of antiseptic strip malls and office plazas. "If you took a poll in this place, these guys can't wait to get to New Orleans, " Carville said. "We are the ideal Super Bowl city. And one of the things I certainly hope we can do in 2013 is really do it up in spades and get back into a regular rotation where we were before. We're going to do that. I think we're going to have a whole lot of momentum in 2013." Perhaps by then, the city might have settled down should the Saints beat the Colts on Sunday. A Super Bowl victory by the Saints, Carville said, would accelerate the positive momentum already in effect in the city, and establish a lifelong memory for his daughters, Matty and Emma. He said they'll remember the day, just as he did Billy Cannon's epic punt return for LSU in 1959. "It might sound cheesy, but there's something at work here, " he said. "The hand of providence is over this. This is something that is just so rich and so important in so many ways. "I can't stand the 'It's just a football game' crowd, " he said mockingly. "Just shut up. You don't understand what's going on." Spoken like a true Who Dat.

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