Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Friday, February 10, 2012

New Orleans Super Bowl

New Orleans on a Super Bowl weekend is one gigantic party. Back when I was still a relatively young man, but before my brain was fully developed, I spent a wild weekend in New Orleans with a bunch of animals.  In fact, some of these guys were part of a larger group actually known by the name, “The Animals,” and they fit the description. 

This was probably in the ‘70s and I don’t even remember who played in the big game. The game was not the main feature on Super Bowl trips in those days. I’ve been to more than one Super Bowl, but this one was exceptional.

Our group was made up of a few of the “Animals”, along with a psychologist friend of mine, who we appointed as our group therapist, several current players for the 49ers, who weren’t contenders that year, and me. It was an eclectic group and certainly not of one mind, although I think we left our minds behind when we got on the plane.

I’m going to use nicknames to protect the guilty. “Willie” worked with the 49ers in some capacity and was a close friend of mine since childhood. He arranged for us to join a group of the players for Super Bowl trips, which made the trips even more interesting. There must have been a dozen or so of us the year we went to New Orleans.

Sleep wasn’t on the menu and the activities went full bore day and night. The first night after our arrival, “Doc,” my racquetball partner and a University Psychology Professor, and I were leaning against a building on Bourbon Street, along with “Chief,” another friend for many years. We were taking a break and observing the activities on the street. I think Doc and I were the mitigating force in many adventures that weekend. We tried to keep things somewhat sane, with very little success.

Chief is a large Cherokee Indian and a very funny guy. He was talking with Doc and me as we waited for two of our guys to come out of Pat O’Brien’s, a very popular club on Bourbon Street. We didn’t realize that this was the calm before the storm.

The two guys inside the club were Willie and “Atlas,” one of the “then” current 49er linemen. The guy is built like The Hulk and, since his season had just ended, he was in top “playing” shape.

We watched in amazement as the crowd in front of the club was suddenly forced back as the club began to empty of patrons. There seemed to be an ocean of people spilling out of the club, with a whirlpool of action in the middle of the crowd.

We recognized Willie and Atlas being forced to the street. Cops and several bouncers were beating both men mercilessly. Willie flipped over a barrier and hit the gutter hard, while one cop continued beating him with his night stick. We immediately rushed into the action to help our pals.

Here’s how Doc told the story after the event. This is based on his perspective as he bent over, pulling Willie out of the gutter to safety. Doc said, “I was trying to pull ‘Willie’ out of the gutter, when I saw that big club coming down on us. Suddenly, the club stopped in mid-air. A hand shot up and grabbed the cop's arm. Then the arm and the cop disappeared.”

I have to admit - that was my hand. Going after a cop is not smart; especially in the south where they shoot you. They had just killed a guy a block from where we were. But this cop was having too much fun bashing my friend with his club, so I “intervened.”

Atlas had even taken a beating, which is hard to believe, but the bouncers pulled his head back by his hair so their buddies could work on his face. I doubt if any of them could have taken Atlas one on one.

Willie suffered the most damage.  His nose was broken and flattened all over his bloody face and neither man knew where he was or what had happened. A bashing to the head by fists and clubs tends to do that to you.

To shorten the story, I somehow managed to avoid arrest, but the other two guys weren’t as lucky. A couple of us took a cab and followed the squad car to the police station where we bailed our two battered buddies out of jail at about 3 in the morning. The two guys filed suit and a year later their case against Pat O’Brien’s went to court. That is another interesting story in itself, but the end result was that they won the case.  

That was just the first night of our wild Super Bowl weekend. There was more to that particular night and even more to come in following days. However, in the interest of protecting impressionable children, folks on heart medication and nursing mothers, I’ll skip the rest for now.

My image of New Orleans and the jazz clubs had morphed into something a lot less musical than Dixieland jazz. I liked it better in the old days.  Swinging bands are more fun and much safer than swinging fists and clubs.


  1. Seems to me that they were right un-neighborly during that weekend where usually they try to be somewhat friendly in a Super Bowl town.

    Maybe Willie and Atlas 'ticked' them off so to speak, Huh? Since I seem to remember who Willie might be, it seems verra likely laddie.

  2. Malcolm -
    Ooops. I evidently didn't disguise Willie well enough...

  3. Ralph, if you were part of the "animals" I probably would say you "were not" a white swan! So my choice for you would be a "bucking bronco"

    Throw in a "stallion" or two and I imagine it was a "rocking good time"!

    As long as there was a "filly" or two then a good time was had by all!

    "Buck on"!

  4. Ed -
    The truth is that my friend the "shrink" and I were usually on the edge of the action, but close enough to get involved now and then. Actually, Ed, I was never much of a wild man.

  5. @Ed:
    Methinks Ralph doth protest overmuch, eh?

  6. You guys are ganging up on me. I'm always just an innocent bystander.