Posted: Wednesday August 31, 2005 9:46PM; Updated: Friday September 2, 2005 5:27PM
One of the Superdome's best performances came at the 2000 Sugar Bowl from Virginia Tech's redshirt freshman Michael Vick against FSU.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Submit a question or comment for Tim Layden.
I hope that we, as a society, have not been inured to images of other humans in pain. But I accept that it is a possibility, in a world where we can sit on our couches in family rooms distant from places like Sri Lanka or Baghdad -- or New Orleans -- and watch natural disasters unfold as if they are just television shows. We can wrap ourselves in a blanket or turn up the air conditioning and shake our heads in wonder, grimacing as if the pain is ours, ever thankful that it is not.
Sometimes it takes a personal connection. Perhaps it's a family member or close friend who is caught in the maelstrom. (I didn't grasp the magnitude and horror of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 until a media friend of mine described his wife and three daughters huddled in their bathtub while their home crumbled around them in fierce winds that made a sound like shrieking). For me, this week, it's a building.
By now you have seen countless images of the Louisiana Superdome. On Sunday you saw pictures of the massive concrete obelisk as the backdrop for stories about its use as a shelter from Katrina. You heard reporters telling us that it could withstand 200 mile-per-hour winds. On Monday, you saw its roof peeled back and heard of water sweeping through holes and soaking the interior of the stadium. By Tuesday, you saw heartbreaking video of entire families sitting on the concrete fencing around the Superdome. You heard that the population inside might swell to 20,000 left homeless by the storm, now left in a cavernous building without electricity, water or toilet facilities. Torpid brown water could be seen encircling the building. People had died inside.
We are said to be a culture that works too much, but we are also a culture of leisure. So many of us live to play or, more correctly, live to watch others play. Our sports stadiums have been called cathedrals and our games religion. That is overstated. Our sports stadiums are places where we find escape and joy.
So it has been with the Superdome. For me. For many sports fans of my generation. To be sure, I have never been inside the Louisiana Superdome when I wasn't working, but within that hulking edifice the games I witnessed left indelible memories. Here now I watched on television as this stadium, this playground, this place where reality has always been outside, was transformed into a symbol for sadness and despair. New Orleans didn't seem so far away anymore.