In the 1980s, when Gambit had just emerged on the scene in New Orleans, our first sports columnist was a familiar name: Buddy Diliberto. Buddy D's opinions and observations on the New Orleans Saints, and other topics, were loud, colorful, homegrown and sometimes even outrageous — but they were pure New Orleans to the core, whether they were delivered on the radio, on TV or in the pages of this newspaper.
Like the city's two most famous exports — food and music — the subject of sports means many things to many people in New Orleans. It's entertainment; it's news; it's big business; it's a tourist attraction; and it's part of the collective DNA of the city. Since the days of Buddy D in print and bagheads in the Superdome, sports have become even more tightly woven into the physical, economic and emotional lives of New Orleanians. From the reopening of the Superdome in September 2006 with a thrilling victory against the hated Atlanta Falcons (and Steve Gleason's electrifying punt-block now immortalized in a statue outside the Dome), to the team's Super Bowl victory to cap the 2009-2010 season, the past seven years have been a golden era in Black and Gold history.
Now, with a bounty scandal hanging over the Saints' heads like a Sword of Damocles, head coach Sean Payton suspended for one year, and a quarterback who just became the most highly compensated player in the NFL, the Saints are more newsworthy, more entertaining, more economically significant and more a part of New Orleans life than ever. For all those reasons, there's never been a better time to bring back a weekly sports column to the pages of Gambit. Starting with this issue, Gus Kattengell joins Gambit as a contributing writer with a new weekly column, "The Spiral."
A graduate of Brother Martin High School and a broadcast journalism major at the University of Southern Mississippi, Kattengell grew up in New Orleans' sports culture. He's currently the co-host of The Sports Hangover, a weekday sports show on WIST-AM, and the co-host of pre- and post-game radio broadcasts of Tulane University football. Before that, Kattengell was the sideline reporter for the Saints Radio Network and contributed to sports coverage on WWL-AM. He has won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for Sports Feature and several Louisiana Associated Press awards for Best Sportscast and Sports Story in the state.
There will never be another Buddy D, of course, but, like him, "G-Katt" is both a passionate fan and an objective observer of the Saints. Also like Buddy, Kattengell has extensive experience reporting on the team in print, on radio and on TV. He's a whiz at social media (friend him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @Gkatt_17). Kattengell will provide reports from training camp, pre- and post-game wraps and breaking Saints news on the Blog of New Orleans. We're happy to welcome him to the ranks of our sports correspondents — he joins writer Alejandro de los Rios and photographer Jonathan Bachman — who were responsible for the words and images in this week's cover story, "The $100 Million Man" (p.19).
Of course, the Saints are not the only sports story in New Orleans. There's quite a buzz (pardon the pun) about the Hornets these days, thanks to the team's two first-round draft picks, Kentucky (and Olympic) standout Anthony Davis and Duke's star shooting guard Austin Rivers. Beyond the Saints and Hornets, New Orleans continues to prove its mettle as America's greatest host city. We'll host the next Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2013, the NCAA Women's Final Four on April 7 and 9, 2013, and the NBA All Star Game on Feb. 16, 2014.
Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, has estimated Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans will have a $434 million impact on the city. It's such a momentous occasion that the first week of Carnival parades in 2013 will be moved up a week to accommodate the game. And if — make that when — the Saints win their second Super Bowl, they'll become the NFL's first team to win the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium. It's safe to say that the three weeks encompassing Super Bowl and Mardi Gras 2013 will make the Lombardi Gras parade of 2010 look as sedate as a game of croquet.
We're looking forward to covering every minute of it.