Mysterious ‘abnormality’ sparks Superdome blackout
Sports | Whitney Williams
We may never know what caused the 34-minute power outage during Sunday’s Super Bowl. Conspiracy theorists swear Beyonce threw up the Illuminati sign during her halftime show (cue ominous music). But the mid-game blackout was nothing new for the San Francisco 49ers.
"It just took us longer to lose," moaned San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks, whose team, just last season, endured two power outages at Candlestick Park during a Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The lights went out in New Orleans on Sunday soon after Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 108-yard touchdown, the longest play in Super Bowl history. The extra seven points pushed the Ravens to a commanding lead. But the long, dark delay, sapped Baltimore’s momentum.
"It really hurt us," fullback Vonta Leach said. "We were rolling. That 35- or 40-minute wait, whatever it was, hurt our momentum as far as what we were trying to do. But we came out on top and that's all that matters."
After the lights came back on, the Niners scored two straight touchdowns and nearly pulled off a game-winning drive in the closing minutes. They had first down inside the Ravens’ 10, but Baltimore kept them out of the end zone to preserve the victory.
Most fans, like Amanda Black of Columbus, Miss., seemed to take the outage in stride, even starting up the wave to pass the time.
"So we had to spend 30 minutes in the dark?” she said. “That was just more time for fans to refill their drinks.”
Auxiliary power kept the field and concourses from going completely dark.
Entergy and SMG, the company that manages the Superdome, said Sunday an "abnormality" occurred where stadium equipment intersects with an Entergy electrical feed, essentially flipping a big breaker. It remained unclear Monday exactly what the abnormality was or why it occurred.
But Doug Thornton, manager of the Superdome, said when the power outage hit, meters indicated the stadium was drawing less power than it does during a typical New Orleans Saints game.
Thornton said millions of dollars have been spent upgrading electrical equipment in the building since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, and none of it failed. He said it was working properly when power was restored.
He also said crews found no evidence Beyonce’s halftime show, replete with pyrotechnics and electronics, had anything to do with the outage. The show used its own dedicated generator and wasn't using the Superdome's power supply.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu told WWL-AM on Monday the city still wants to make a bid to host the NFL's championship game again in 2018. He insisted the outage wouldn’t hurt its chances.
Landrieu said league owners were impressed with the city's performance as host and even joked the game got better after the blackout. "People were leaving and the game was getting boring, so we had to do a little something to spice it up," he said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said New Orleans was a terrific Super Bowl host and promised the outage wouldn’t affect future bids.
"I fully expect that we will be back here for Super Bowls," Goodell said. "And I hope we will be back. We want to be back."
Dr. Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's Center for Hospitality and Sports Management, said Monday the power outage shouldn't hurt New Orleans' reputation as a convention destination.
"I think people view it for what it was: An unusual event with a near-record power draw," he said. "It was the equivalent of a circuit breaker flipping."
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