A CBS announcer was mid-sentence, probably scrambling to fill time during what looked like an increasingly lopsided football game, when he went silent. Well, he probably didn’t go silent — but the broadcast did. For a few seconds, the network showed a dimly lit stadium, and then cut to commercial.
For more than half an hour, much of the New Orleans [car company name] Superdome was dark — a length of time that, by my informal calculations, was twice as long as the amount of time the teams were actively playing football. It was undoubtedly embarrassing to all involved — the city, the venue, the network, the league. And, somehow, the president.
No one is quite sure what happened. Talking Points Memo shares the official cause identified last night:
Shortly after the beginning of the second half of the Super Bowl in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system. 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.
This morning, a CBS reporter suggested a malfunctioning monitor was to blame.
No matter. Well before the lights came back on, people were pointing fingers. New Orleans’ largest power provider, Entergy, quickly did what power companies do best: It blamed the customer. CBS and the capable journalists it had on site blamed phone chargers, presumably as a joke. People on Twitter blamed Obama. (This Department of Energy press release from Saturday, titled “Super Bowl City Leads on Energy Efficient Forefront,” didn’t help.)
This gentleman was clearly on Mitt Romney’s mailing list last fall.
Its Obamas fault!!! #supportCOAL
— Blake Spencer#⃣2⃣1⃣ (@BSpence21) February 4, 2013
It wasn’t only random people looking to score weird political points last night. Here’s Dana Perino, former press secretary for George W. Bush:
What this Super Bowl needs is a gigantic, eagle-killing windmill.
— Dana Perino (@DanaPerino) February 4, 2013
(Perino was deputy press secretary the last time the Superdome had a notable power outage, so she’s adept at misdirection and the politics of failure.)
Perino meant her statement ironically, of course. But what’s interesting is that a little localized wind power actually might have helped. As 350.org’s Bill McKibben noted in a tweet, Louisiana generates 0.0 percent of its energy from wind power [PDF], relying instead on natural gas, coal, and nuclear. Bringing that figure up to 0.02 percent with some rooftop micro wind turbines on the Superdome certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
Eventually, the game continued. After 30 minutes of commentators suggesting that the game would restart in 10 minutes, it finally did. And the lights stayed on — almost certainly thanks to President Obama.