Peter Finney of The Times-Picayune called last Monday's reopening of the Superdome, and the subsequent 23-3 beating that the hometown New Orleans Saints put on the visiting Atlanta Falcons, "the greatest day in the history of this city's NFL franchise" in his September 27 piece entitled "Homecoming wasn't supposed to be this happy."
Interest in the game, and the story of the Saints coming back home and what life is now like for New Orleans citizens a year after Hurricane Katrina transcended the region, as the telecast drew record numbers for ESPN in terms of viewers (10,850,000 homes) and ratings (11.8), according to AP. It was also the night's highest-rated program on any network, broadcast or cable.
The event represented a huge PR opportunity for the city. With the Monday Night Football stage, it was able - through interviews, feature segments, and by packing the Superdome and raising the decibel level to deafening heights - to show how far the community has come in a year and that it has and will continue to stand strong.
The event could have been a pitfall for both ESPN and the NFL by covering the human-interest aspect without realizing it was still a football game. However, ESPN balanced its features during pre-game coverage between the Saints and people affected by the storm.
Cynics may have a right to question whether the game should even have taken place when so much of the Lower Ninth Ward and other areas of the city are still dilapidated. For every one shining representative of pluck - the homeless man who the announcers say still bought season tickets - there are potentially scores more who deem their plight more vital than Saints victories.
But nearly all movements need their own moment of inspiration. If a blocked punt and an underdog winning streak serves as a catalyst to America's continual interest in the city's rebirth, then the game must go on.