TALE OF 2 CITIES
In some ways, New Orleans has gotten better since Hurricane Katrina. The restaurant scene, for instance.
But drive just a few miles outside the French Quarter and a different picture emerges.
This is definitely a tale of two cities.
Some parts of the Big Easy, such as the Ninth Ward and Treme, don't look a whole lot different than they did the day after Katrina came ashore — more than seven years ago. On a ride-along with three advocates for the homeless group Unity of Greater New Orleans, it didn't take long to realize just how much is left to do in this unique American city.
There are still thousands of abandoned homes and buildings — more than 10,000, according to some counts, maybe as many as 15,000. Many of the houses are still adorned with the spray-painted "X'' that became a symbol of the devastation during those awful days back in 2005, when it was used by searchers to let everyone know the structure had been checked and how many bodies could be found inside.
Christopher Weaver barely escaped the floodwaters after the levee just a block away from his house in the Lower Ninth Ward came crashing down. He's returned to a rebuilt home, but most of his neighborhood is marked by vacant, overgrown lots or abandoned homes that still bear the scars of Katrina.
With the Super Bowl blimp flying off in the distance, Weaver was asked what life is like for people like him.
He shook his head and looked at the abandoned lots across the street, obscured by weeds that are taller than he is.
"You can see it for yourself," Weaver said. "It sucks."
— Paul Newberry — http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
STAT OF THE DAY: $100M COIN TOSS
The stat of the day today is about gambling on a simple question: Heads or tails? Bettors worldwide are expected to wager $100 million on that coin toss outcome at the Super Bowl.
That's according to gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, which tracks betting trends in casinos in Nevada and elsewhere.
Bell says in the past 46 Super Bowls, the coin has fallen heads 23 times and tails 23 times. But the NFC has won 14 of the past 15 Super Bowl tosses.
Suckers might think that means the Ravens are due for the AFC, but Baltimore's chances of winning the toss this time: Still 50 percent.
— Oskar Garcia — http://twitter.com/oskargarcia
TROUT CRASHES SUPER BOWL ADS
A rising baseball star is crashing the Super Bowl with his first major national commercial.
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, last year's American League rookie of the year and runner-up for the league's MVP, will be featured in a new ad for Subway, along with Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin, Justin Tuck of the New York Giants, Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, and boxer Laila Ali, among others.
The ad marks Jared Fogle's 15-year anniversary of losing 245 pounds by eating Subway.
Trout says being part of a Super Bowl ad is "an incredible feeling."
The endorsement is a natural for Trout, who grew up eating the restaurant chain's sandwiches (His favorite: chicken teriyaki with hot peppers and oregano)
Since his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles, isn't playing, Trout says he enjoys checking out the commercials.
"Some get pretty creative, some of them get a laugh, some prove a point," he said. "I'm sure I'll be getting a lot of text messages during the Super Bowl just to mess with me a little bit."
As for the game, Trout says he thinks San Francisco to win even though he wants Baltimore to prevail.
"I've got a lot of 49ers fans on the Angels, and I know I'll hear it when I get to the spring," he said.
Pitchers and catchers report this month, and soon Trout will be playing alongside slugger Josh Hamilton. Trout said he texted the former Rangers superstar to welcome him to the Angels.