By PHIL BARBER
Other than the site of the biggest football game of their lives, New Orleans means different things to different members of the two Super Bowl teams: great food, nonstop music, nice winter weather, crowded streets and perhaps a chance to drop it like it’s hot after (we will assume not before) the game is over.
It means a lot more than that to Ravens safety Ed Reed, who grew up in St. Rose, La., less than a half-hour west of New Orleans.
Reed sees Super Bowl XLVII as a triumph of the spirit after witnessing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Like most of America, he watched that drama unfold on television. He was preparing for a preseason game.
“It really hurt my heart to see things like that,” Reed said. “You just wish everybody would’ve got out and got away. But the real point about that is that everybody wasn’t fortunate enough or had the means or transportation or even finances to get their family out. … Or didn’t want to leave, man, because that’s how we are. Like I said earlier, we tend not to want to leave Louisiana: ‘We lived through a bunch of hurricanes, and we’ll get through this one.’ But you didn’t think the levees would break.”
Reed, a certain future Hall of Famer who is playing in his first Super Bowl, saw the best and worst of his former home in the aftermath of Katrina.
“We lost a whole hospital. I don’t know how that happened,” he said. “So it was a lot of bad stuff that happened in this city. But it was a lot of good things that happened, too. Had a lot of people helping people and showing the true heart of Louisiana, and people just opening their doors, just trying to make sure somebody had a roof over their head, man, clothes on their back, food to eat.”
The symbol of New Orleans’ slow, sometimes painful recovery since 2005 is the Superdome. When it was severely damaged by the hurricane, then fouled by the teeming crowd of evacuees who took shelter in the stadium when the streets were flooded, a lot of people argued that the dome should be torn down. Reed wasn’t one of them.
“I didn’t think this building was going anywhere, man,” he said at Media Day, sitting at a riser near one of the sidelines. “This building’s been here for a long time. It’s like the heart of the city. It brings so much energy to the city when our team (the Saints) was winning, and they’re back on track now with Drew Brees and Coach (Sean) Payton, man. They won the Super Bowl. I went to that Super Bowl. Had to be in there to be part of the city. I wasn’t a Raven that day; I was a Saint.”
After a little while, the conversation lightened up and someone asked Reed where he likes to eat in New Orleans.
“Mom’s Kitchen,” he answered, and some reporters murmured knowingly.
Then Reed paused and added: “My mom’s kitchen.”
This is still home to the leader of the Baltimore secondary.