Friday, January 2, 2009

A sweet Sugar for sure

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association. While few know the actual name of the committee of businessmen and civic leaders who have put on the Sugar Bowl since its inception in 1934, most everyone knows of the winter football classic that has determined 22 national college football champions. Among the major bowls, only the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is older. So it is with pride and a sense of tradition that I headed off to the Legends Luncheon of the Sugar Bowl at the Grand Ballrooom of the New Orleans Hilton Hotel. Thousands of members, guests and media were able to see 30 past most valuable players and coaches who have graced the gridiron and paced the sidelines in Sugar Bowls of the past. Players like Archie Manning of Ole Miss, Steve and "Snake" Stabler of Alabama, both of whom became New Orleans Saints quarterbacks joined legendary coaches like Vince Dooley, Paul Dietzel, Gene Stallings and Frank Broyles. It was an embarrassment of riches as sports celebrity trumped sports celebrity and WWL-TV's Jim Henderson (a former Saints radio partner with Manning) played host and introduced the figures to the audience one by one with a short biography prior to their emergence from the darkened rear and onto the well-lit podium. The event was just the start of what promised to be a very good game between two very good teams, namely the Utah Utes (12-0) and the sixth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1). Alabama, by virtue of its long-standing tradition and ranking in the polls came into the game as a heavy favorite. Utah, the only unbeaten college football team, in 2008 had on more than one occasion wondered aloud why it was not playing for the national championship. Because of what some consider a "weak" schedule and since they lack a major bowl affiliation through a conference , the Utes were kept out of consideration for playing in the BCS Championship Bowl. However, after their performance in the Superdome last night (when they upended Alabama 31-17), the case for their consideration as to owning at least a piece of the national championship could well be made. The Utes showed that, despite what the matchup looked like on paper, their talent, ablility and drive allowed them to take charge of the game from the very first drive. Their domination of Alabama was almost absolute and Nick Saban's team could do nothing more than try to play catchup after finding themselves down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. The "underdog" Utes showed they had the right stuff and put on a magnificent show for those in attendance or watchig on TV. The New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association's Sugar Bowl was a great event, bringing visitors to the city and gaining attention for our fair city. I can't wait until next year's show.

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