Editor's Note: New Orleans always has been one of our favorite cities. While the events of Hurricane Katrina have put things in perspective, there are many who believe sports eventually does help heal. FDR believed this was the case during World War II, as did many officials in New York during the weeks after 9-11.

With that in mind, E-ticket celebrates the Big Easy as the City of Championships. Beginning with Pat Forde's essay and continuing with the work of writers such as Dan Jenkins and Roy Blount Jr., and coaches and players such as Joe Paterno and Mike Ditka, we salute N'awlins. We look forward to the day it rises again and when we're able to return ... It will rise again. And we will return.

-- John Marvel

By Pat Forde

My first true appreciation for the sporting pleasure that is New Orleans came at the 1994 Final Four.

In Charlotte.

We were being hustled out the door of a makeshift bar in the city's soulless downtown. Closing hour was insultingly early by Sports Writer Standard Time (when you work on tight deadlines until 1 a.m., you don't want to hear "last call" 45 minutes later). The media mood was mutinous.

"F--- your faux city!" one writer hollered over his shoulder on the way out.

They were evicting us from a place that literally was a bank 360 days a year, but had been converted into a "nightclub" for the NCAA basketball championship. The Charlotte entertainment industry had white-flighted itself to the outlying areas -- where the arena was, as well -- leaving visiting fans shuffling around a city center that offered fluffy hotel beds and little more. We joylessly drank beer amid the deposit slips.

Simply put: This was no New Orleans.

Charlotte's faux Final Fo' might have been tolerable if it hadn't come 12 months after one in NOLA -- the realest of real cities, and the nation's undisputed champion of the Huge Sports Party.

Which is why millions of Americans who have attended a Super Bowl, Sugar Bowl or Final Four in New Orleans lost a little something during Hurricane Katrina and its anguished aftermath. Nothing as important as lives or homes or jobs, of course, but something nonetheless.

Because every sports fan who visits that city comes home with a little piece of the city in his soul.

Must be the Gris-Gris.

Gris-Gris (pronounced "gree-gree") is what they call the voodoo in New Orleans. One astrology website describes it this way: "The effects of Gris-Gris are immediate. Within 24 hours you could instinctively know that something has

    Story 1: Pat Forde
    Story 2: Roy Blount Jr.
    Story 3: Dan Jenkins
    Story 4: Joe Paterno
    Story 5: Mike Ditka
    Story 6: Mike Downey
    Story 7: Jay Mariotti
    Story 8: Andy Katz
    Story 9: George Teague
    Story 10: Roger Staubach
    Story 11: Michael Knisley
    Story 12: Ray Ratto
    Story 13: Tom Friend
    Story 14: Ivan Maisel

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