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When Bacchus Got Slumdogged

In 2009, Bacchus got slumdogged. Because Mardi Gras was in late February that year, the Bacchus parade fell on the same night as the Academy Awards. In New Orleans that year there was more than the usual interest in the Oscars because the perceived top contender was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The film, starring part-time local Brad Pitt, had been filmed throughout town and had established quite a presence.

That night New Orleanians were divided between Bacchus and the Academy Awards. Bacchus won the majority, but at many parties there was a television somewhere in the back. By the time the big end-of-the-show awards were announced, the parade had already passed anyway.

Bacchus that year was Val Kilmer. He had a better night than Benjamin Button, which had 13 nominations. From seemingly out of nowhere, the India-made Slumdog Millionaire totally dominated. Button only won three awards, all in minor categories. Slumdog won eight, including Best Picture.

As long as the Academy Awards presentation is in late February or early March ,it will be Bacchus’ fate to compete anytime Mardi Gras is late in the calendar.

Whenever Mardi Gras is in early February, Bacchus, the wine god, faces yet another competitor: the Super Bowl.

Bacchus has gone eyeball to eyeball with the NFL a couple of times including, most famously, the 2008 game when the New York Giants faced the undefeated New England Patriots.

Here again there was a local connection as New Orleanian Eli Manning quarterbacked the Giants to one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. (I was at a parade party along the route that night. People would hurry inside and cluster around the TV between floats. Extended breaks in the parade were welcomed.)

Bacchus takes on the distinction of being the only krewe to, at various times, have to face the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards. It will happen again this year, March 2, as New Orleanian Ellen DeGeneres hosts the awards (see related article here).

Having a big, showy crowd-drawing parade helps overcome competition. Nevertheless, when the going gets tough, it’s good to be a wine god.

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