NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, February 4 – The Super Bowl, America’s iconic sporting spectacle, was interrupted for 35 minutes by a power outage on Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome, the first such mishap in the title game’s history.
In the same Superdome where survivors of Hurricane Katrina fled for refuge in 2005 only to find peril and heartache, spectators who spent thousands of dollars to cheer their heroes were plunged into darkness and momentary chaos.
Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes and Jacoby Jones returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown to spark the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in the National Football League championship spectacle.
But safety and security concerns moved to the forefront 98 seconds into the third quarter when the electricity went out at the 73,000-seat stadium. Some lights returned after a few seconds. Others needed more than half an hour.
“We sincerely apologize for the incident,” Superdome spokesman Eric Eagan said.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell presented the championship trophy to the Ravens after the game without a mention of the power outage that interrupted the contest with Baltimore leading 28-6 after 98 seconds of the third quarter.
In a joint statement from electricity provider Entergy New Orleans and stadium management company SMG, officials said a monitor detected a fault in the electrical system where stadium equipment connected to Entergy’s feed.
“A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” the statement said.
“Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue.
“Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed. Entergy and SMG subsequently coordinated start up procedures, ensuring that full power was safely restored to the Superdome.”
“Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality.”
Jones produced the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history on the kickoff of the second half and San Francisco took over from there, facing a third-down play needing 14 yards to ensure they keep possession of the ball.
That’s when the lights went out, prompting screams and fans chanting in rhythm as half the stadium lights returned quickly, leaving the Super Bowl shut down in a bizarre situation and sending both teams to the sidelines.
As lights slowly returned to full brightness, players were left in an eerie twilight to try and find ways to stay warmed up and keep their concentration, throwing or kicking balls or stretching with no idea how long they would wait.
Concession stands and scoreboards were shut down, as were lights in stadium hallways and even the locker rooms.
The power outage came only a few minutes after a half-time show filled with electrical and lighting wizardry that starred pop diva Beyonce, one for which the main stadium lights were turned off.
While the 49ers failed to convert when the game resumed and were forced to punt, they went on to score 17 points in the third quarter and seized the chance to challenge the Ravens team that had been dominating them.
“The Niners handled that really well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “They came out and flipped the momentum of that game really well.”
The Super Bowl has become something of a national holiday in the United States, with viewing parties boosting food and alcohol sales and viewership of game telecasts among the most watched television programs in US history.
A week of lavish parties and celebrity outings has become commonplace at every Super Bowl venue, far from the scene of devastation that the world saw in New Orleans eight years ago because of flooding and Hurricane Katrina damage.
The game was the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since that catastrophy and an unqualified success until the lights went out on the party.
US telecaster CBS said that despite the power outage, all advertising commitments were honored on the telecast, many of them as valuable as $3.8 million for 30 seconds in a TV showcase like no other in American culture.
And of course, NFL players took to Twitter to comment on the power outage.
“What’s the odds of this happening? That New Orleans voodoo??” tweeted NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.