Atlanta advanced to the final rounds for Super Bowl 1998, and as a football family from Georgia, we were purdy pumped! Thing is, that same year was the season Brandon would advance from high school to college. In other words, he’d graduate spring of ’99. And, just as the Falcons were in the midst of capturing the NFC Championship—we were hopping from one college campus to another for Brandon’s official visits. College football recruiting season was wide open!
We often missed the NFL Sunday games leading-up to the Super Bowl, either from driving or flying back to Georgia. But the weekend the Super Bowl played, our schedule slapped us smack-dab in New Orleans for the Tulane University visit. After all, his brother Bryson was already there playing for the Green Wave, why not take the little bro too? But by the time Brandon’s recruiting season began, Tommy Bowden’s season at Tulane, was over.
Clemson made Bowden an offer he couldn’t refuse, so he took the head coaching job for the Tigars. The crew who put the Green Wave on top packed-up and headed for higher ground. That coaching switch left a huge hole. To top it off, the replacements for Bowden’s crew were in the shady character catalog. They did not hold the high esteem of committed Christian like Coach Bowden did. I saw that for myself, up front and very personal. The difference was utterly brusque!
As our visit with Tulane came to a close that Sunday, we were anxious to get to the N.O. airport, catch our plane, head home and watch maybe the last half of the Super Bowl. Garsh by golly, the Falcons were breaking a record too, and we didn’t want to miss out! Teeing-up for a Super Bowl? First time in franchise history!
Our priority that afternoon? Wishing our plane left on time! If anyone has ever departed from the N.O. airport on time, I’d love to hear from you. We never did. And, we flew in and out of N.O. often. Bryson played as a true freshman so we attended most every home game. But this time, our delay had nothing to do with the N.O. airport and everything to do with severe storms in Atlanta! We were grounded indefinitely before we ever boarded. The three of us, (Gary, Brandon and I) stuck at the N.O. airport, like a chunk of chewed bubble gum on the sole of your shoe. Now if we were lucky, we might catch the last quarter of the 2ad biggest game of the year. For us, the Liberty Bowl ranked #1! Naturally.
Disgusted and disappointed we sat-down at our designated gate, near the end of the corridor. Silence. Complete silence between us. Finally in the distance, I heard a faint familiar sound. It sounded like a bunch of bees buzzing. I followed my perked-up ears back toward the middle of the airport. Right there staring me straight-on was an open expanse of a bar lounge area. Front and center, suspended behind the bar, a huge television set blaring out an extremely familiar sound. It was the Super Bowl game! Yippee-ki-yay! The bar in the airport would solve our problem! It was the first time I ever thought a bar just might be a saving grace.
I went running back down the corridor to fetch the fellas. “Hey guys, game’s on!” Brandon followed me, Gar stayed at our gate to make sure we wouldn’t miss our flight, if and when they announced our departure time.
Brandon and I took a seat in the back of the lounge area and quickly eyed the scoreboard. Denver was ahead 17-0 in the first quarter. Bummer!
A waitress soon came and asked how old Brandon was and what drinks we wanted to order. I smiled sheepishly and shook my head, “Oh no honey, we just want to see the game.” She indicated that we could not be there unless I ordered a drink. “Oh, ok then, we’ll have Coke-cola’s with a twist of lemon—actually make mine a Shirley Temple and his, a Roy Rodgers.” She said it had to have alcohol in it. “You’re kidding, right? “Well, indeed she was not kidding. She asked us to get up. These seats are reserved for those interested in adult drinks. Seriously?
Honestly, the lounge area had maybe four or five people in it at the most, with plenty of empty chairs. I imagined everyone in their right mind was at home, at a Super Bowl party, or either in Miami watching the game live. We got up and walked out to the floor tile area and stood, still in view of the game on the bar TV. No longer in the bar lounge, or on the carpet. This bar lounge had no door—it had three open sides to the mall or middle areas of the airport, the divide was the carpet for the lounge area, and the tile for the airport area.
Did somebody call security? Apparently they did. One security policeman soon came on the scene. A rather short fellow with a big bouncy belly and a bald head told me we had to move. I tried to explain to him that we were from Atlanta, wanted to see as much of the Super Bowl game as possible because our flight had been delayed, and that my son just visited Tulane, he may play football for them, and that we meant no harm and moved out of the bar area as asked. “Sir, I do not drink and I don’t intend to start now. I ordered Colas.” He got quite burly with me and spouted off something about arresting me.
I gotta say, by that time—big mistake! We had not offended anyone or given him cause for his outrage. At that point my heels smoldered to a fire and honey, I dug in! I thought we just might play the Super Bowl twist right then and there. A twist of strong-wills!! This guy was just itching to throw his weight around. Well, he picked the wrong lady!
He grabbed my arm, I jerked it away and said, “Hey, what’s that?” peering my eyes behind him. He twisted around so fast that his belly needed time to catch up with his chest. Once he turned back around, I didn’t move a mussel and stared him down with daggers so sharp I could have chipped ice with my eyes. I towered over this dude and dared him to touch me again. Somebody wake me up! Surely this is just a bad dream.
I then reached into my purse to get pen and paper. I was going to write down his name and badge number. But, by the time I looked up again, he had turned his badge over so I could not get his information. I’m sure he realized he was really in the wrong and did not want this reported to his superiors.
He told Brandon to get out of here and take his mama with him. Brandon, the ever present force, never said a word up to this point or left my side. He responded, “Sir, she is my Mom and I’m not taking her anywhere.” I was just dumb-founded. I couldn’t believe it escalated to this and I was sober as a preacher passing the collection plate! Gee, what do they do with the drunks?
Finally, out of respect and protection for Brandon I backed-off and bowed-out. I know Brandon would have, could have, taken him, but in the end, who are we!?? We are not the kind of people who go around physically fighting or bullying other people!! I sure didn’t want Brandon to literally fight this ding-bat-dude. We’d never been in a situation like that before, or since, and who I cared about was Brandon.
Law, have mercy! Sometimes ya feel like you’ve just got to stand your ground, especially when the opposing person is apparently, brainless or compensating for some childhood complex which is, in the end, even more reason to back-off. He just didn’t have the capability to do his job in a suitable manner. We all know who really has the stronger will!!
This incident is the most laughable thing that ever happened to us on any recruiting trip! To this day we still chuckle over “Mama’s smack-down, Super Bowl Twist in New Orleans!”
In all seriousness folks, for those of you flying in to New Orleans for this Super Sunday—beware! That poor ol security policeman with the big bouncy belly and baled head just might be lookin’ for all those non-alcoholic drinkers in the bar. Ya sure don’t wanta find out how to implement the Super Bowl Twist and miss the real thing!