www.geomidpoint.com confirms Memphis as the geographical center of all current 24 teams of the 2 conferences. In addition to BBQ and St. Jude's, there's also Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and scenic vies of the Mississippi River. Of course, there would have to be SUBSTANTIAL capital outlay and investment. I've always enjoyed the hospitality of Memphis.
Dallas or Atlanta. Atlanta or Dallas.
As the SEC and Big 12 try to pick a new city/bowl partner for their “Champions” Bowl game, this writer wants to cast his vote — not that I’ve actually got a vote, of course — for New Orleans.
Atlanta is a fine city, but don’t SEC fans already get their fill of the Georgia Dome? You’ve got the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games. The Chick-fil-A Bowl. The SEC Championship Game. The SEC Tournament every few basketball seasons. Atlanta is a great city, a fun city (especially if Ray Lewis isn’t in town). Heck, it’d be a good city for the occasional college football championship game. But the SEC is in danger of becoming all Atlanta’d out. Plus, Big 12′ers might not be eager to make the long trip to mid-Georgia.
As for Dallas, well, the option on the table really isn’t even Dallas. Or Fort Worth. It’s Arlington. And while that’s surely a nice place with some mighty hospitable folks ready to welcome the tourists, easily the biggest things going for that city are Jerry Jones’ stadium and his bank account. In fact, Cowboys Stadium and Jones’ wallet will probably land the “Champions” Bowl. But SEC fans might not be eager to make the long trek to mid-Texas. And aren’t Big 12 backers leery of becoming to Metroplex-centric (a la the SEC and Atlanta)?
In this scibe’s opinion there’s only one place for the “Champions” Bowl. It’s like a little foreign country — complete with different architecture, different cuisine, different accents, and a different culture — right in the middle of the United States. That place is of course New Orleans. A tourist Mecca. So long as the fans promise to steer clear of Krystal after the game, the “Champions” Bowl should marry up with the Sugar Bowl ASAP.
The city’s location would even make it the easiest travel destination for fans of both conferences.
If you’re still not biting on New Orleans, here are 15 reasons to make the new SEC/Big 12 bowl a permanent resident of the Big Easy… provided by a frequent and recent connoisseur of the city:
15. Above-ground cemeteries
You might’ve seen photos, but until you’ve driven by or toured one of these products of the area’s below-sea-level setting, you haven’t a clue as to just how freakin’ unusual they really are.
While I was in the French Quarter last weekend, someone asked a New Orleans native barkeep is she would pose for a photo with his group’s souvenir Voodoo doll. The response? De-Nied. The 20-something wanted no part of whatever karma or witchery might pass from the group to the doll to her. Asking her about her response I was told, “I don’t believe much in religion, but Voodoo is a different beast.” You won’t hear that in Arlington.
13. The National World War II Museum
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” Have any appreciation at all for the sacrifices made by the “Greatest Generation” in the world’s last, truly global war? Then try to go through New Orleans’ D-Day Museum without getting misty-eyed at least once. Moving. Very moving.
12. Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall
For those with interest in a different war — and more than a few of the folks I spotted there were real “Lost Causers” — swing by this little archive. Even if basking in Confederate mythology isn’t your idea of fun, you’ll at least come to the realization from looking at the authentic uniforms on hand that 19th-century males were roughly the size of Hobbits.
11. Swamp tours
Ever been to another planet? Take an airboat tour through the swamps and bayous and you’ll get that feeling. Do your research and find a good tour company, though. Don’t do the brochure-from-a-street-vendor thing.
10. Jen at Finnegan’s Easy
The best barkeeper in the Quarter. Working at a laid-back joint, Jen’s anything but. Say something stupid and you’ll likely find yourself tossed back out onto St. Peter Street. Trust me, though, Jen’s tops…
9. Dixie Beer
Especially if she’s serving up a bottle of ice cold Dixie Beer. After Hurricane Katrina these suds are no longer brewed in New Orleans, but they still provide a step back into the past with the same old recipe. (Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your own taste buds.) The college kids will be drinking their Abita, but the old school, PBR-types will be sipping Dixies and digging the local music.
8. Jackson Square
It’s the photo op that has to be done in New Orleans. Local artists pitch their paintings. Local musicians make their music. And tourists throw money at both. All in front of beautiful St. Louis Cathedral and the famous statue of Andrew Jackson, hero of New Orleans in the War of 1812. (Jackson went on to become president and sign into law the Indian Removal Act which should be his lasting, shameful legacy. Sorry, Jacksonites, I’m not a fan of the man.)
7. Zoo, aquarium and Imax
Yes, you can actually take the kids to N’awlins. And while they’re enjoying kid-like things…
6. Hand Grenades
You can enjoy the most famous product of The Tropical Isle. Sweet, but not quite as sweet — or famous — as Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane, the Hand Grenade packs a much more powerful punch. So be careful. Though your girlfriend might love the melon taste, she’ll actually be pouring back some Pure Grain Alcohol. The fact that you can’t taste said alcohol is the danger. (I learned this lesson before a mid-90s wedding rehearsal of which I have zero recollection.)
If you’re headed to Bourbon Street in order to party, you can do so on the cheap. While spots in Arlington and Atlanta probably offer up 2-for-1 drinks during Happy Hour, several stops on Bourbon offer 3-for-1 beers at all hours.
Nola isn’t all about getting boozed up, of course. The older you get, the more you come to appreciate the unique culture of the city. From the balconies to the small courtyards, the architecture and look of New Orleans play a big part in creating the feel of New Orleans. (Those French and Spanish street names in the Quarter give everything a slight “are we still in America?” quality, too.)
Five words: Jambalaya, etouffee, muffaleta, alligator, crawfish. Again, New Orleans is like its own little nation.
It seems that on every street and every street corner live music can be heard. Jazz (not my favorite), zydeco (close to my favorite), and blues (my absolute favorite) are omnipresent. From professionals in the French Quarter clubs to bucket-banging street performers, they all create the soundtrack of the city.
1. It’s the right thing to do
Until Las Vegas builds a football stadium capable of hosting 80,000 fans, there’s no city in America that is more geared toward giving tourists a warm, friendly welcome than New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina, the city has rebounded and thankfully maintained much of its pre-disaster personality. But the work isn’t done and the more money that gets poured back into that city’s economy the better. So says this lover of the Big Easy.
So for fans looking for a good time in a town that’s darn near smack in the middle of Big 12/SEC country — and for the financial benefit of one of our nation’s most unique locales — the “Champions” Bowl needs to wind up in New Orleans either by hook or by crook. (And if Louisiana politicians get involved, that would take care of the “crook” part.)
Nola, anyone? Nola, everyone?
Nola it is.