If TV ratings are down for Super Bowl LIII, disgruntled New Orleans Saints fans are hoping they’re to blame.
Still mad about the team’s 26-23 NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams — when a non-call on pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact likely cost the Saints a Super Bowl trip — Who Dat nation is preparing for anti-Super Bowl parties Sunday when the Rams take on the New England Patriots.
While millions will be glued to TVs for Super Bowl LIII, anyone in New Orleans will be hard-pressed to find a bar or restaurant showing the game. Instead, many sports-centric establishments will re-air Super Bowl XLIV — when the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts nine years ago — or show the Puppy Bowl or remain closed.
Jeffrey Carreras, owner of Tracey’s Original Irish Channel Bar and a Saints season-ticket holder for 25 years, said he won’t show the game on any of his restaurant’s 24 TVs.
“If someone asks to watch the game, I’ll tell them to get the hell out and go watch it at home,” Carreras said. “Usually, we’ll support the teams that made the Super Bowl; like with New England, we’d make chowder. Not this year. Because it was the worst call in NFL history and it still stings.
“New Orleans is a city that’s had its share of ups and downs. The Saints lifted us up as a community after Hurricane Katrina. We are coming together now to protest what we see as an insult to our community.”
YOUR DAILY DOSE: Top sports headlines delivered daily
In a Super Bowl news conference Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked whether he’d considered overturning the result or restarting the game from the no-call (the score was tied at 20 with 1:45 left). Rule 17 of the NFL rule book allows games to be played over from a certain point or altogether. Goodell’s response: “Absolutely not.”
“We understand the frustrations of the fans,” Goodell told reporters. “But we also know our officials are human. They have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances and they’re not going to get it right every time.”
Cindy Wood, owner of Vaughan’s Lounge — one of the city’s biggest Saints bars — encouraged customers with a message on her restaurant’s Facebook page: “I think everybody and all bars in New Orleans should not watch or show (the Super Bowl). Let’s make the (Super Bowl) ratings the worst in history.”
Homedale Inn, which considers itself a “neighborhood dive bar for Saints fans,” determined whether it would air the Super Bowl through a Facebook poll that overwhelmingly favored an anti-Super Bowl event.
“More people are going to not be watching the game out here than there will be watching it,” said Homedale owner Bob Gostl. “We’re not worried about the monetary side of it; we just want to be a place where Who Dats can voice their displeasure and enjoy their Sunday. We’re not going to be spending our time watching what we’re calling the Fake Super Bowl.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s noticed the citywide angst extend across the state.
“I’ll be honest — I don’t know anyone who has interest in watching the game in our entire state,” he told USA TODAY Sports by phone. “I think that’s because Saints fans and everyone watching believe it was a terrible injustice. The reality is it was the worst call in the history of the NFL. That egregiousness cost the Saints a chance to play in the Super Bowl.”
Edwards wrote Goodell a scathing letter last week.
“For those who think this isn’t political, the Monday after the game, I got calls non-stop from all over the state asking me to do something,” Edwards said.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) used his time on the Senate floor last Friday to call out the NFL. Rep. Cedric Richmond (LA-02) suggested bringing Goodell before Congress to address why the no-call was not overturned.
Restaurants and bars seizing the city-wide outrage are planning everything from $1 beers and day-long happy hours to Southern-style potlucks or costume parties. Dat Dog restaurant on Magazine Street will provide a dunk tank with a referee in it.
There’s even a Boycott Bowl music festival and block party featuring local musicians, chefs and bartenders. Another event, Cruisin for the Saints caravan, encourages fans to dress in black and gold for a meet-and-greet before driving into New Orleans.
“We don’t need an excuse to party in New Orleans,” Edwards said.
Even if it’s for a heartbreaking loss.