The Strangest Catchphrase in Boston Sports History
New Orleans hosted Super Bowl XXXI between the Patriots and Packers, and naturally, “jambalaya” became a rallying cry among New England fans. I got in on the action when I bought a Patriots hat that came with a free bumper sticker, which I promptly stuck on my bedroom door. The decal (above) was red, white, and blue, and said, “GO PATS! JAMBALAYA.”
If adopting a Creole dish as a sports catchphrase sounds ludicrously hokey, that’s because it was. But for a few months, it was New England’s downscale version of “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” With the Super Bowl being held in New Orleans in February—and the Patriots making another run at a title—it’s time to re-visit “jambalaya.”
Eddie Andelman, the man behind the slogan, is now in his 70s. “The thing took off like a rocket,” Andelman said on Monday. The sports radio pioneer, hot dog aficionado, and one-time Boston magazine cover boy (April 1972), came up with “jambalaya” in the summer of 1996. Despite the fact that the Patriots went 6-10 the previous season, Andelman foresaw a Super Bowl run. He loved food—the then-WEEI host would extol the virtues of chicken fingers on air—and so he picked an iconic delicacy as his instrument of hype. “I just knew the Patriots were going to the Super Bowl,” Andelman told the Herald in January 1997. “I bet them at odds of 18-1 back on June 6. But, unfortunately, I could only raise $10.”
By then, “jambalaya” had become, as Andelman put it, “part of Patriots jargon.” He was right. Restaurants around New England put the dish on their menus. Companies began stamping “jambalaya” on T-shirts. Fans around New England cooked a batch for their Super Bowl parties. And with sponsors paying his way, Andelman spent the Super Bowl bye week traveling to New Orleans via motor coach, stopping along the route to talk with Patriots fans and broadcast his show.
The party ended on January 26, 1997, when Brett Favre and the Packers beat the Patriots by two touchdowns. But that wouldn’t be the last Super Bowl the Patriots played in New Orleans. In February 2002, the Pats returned for Super Bowl XXXVI and upset the Rams, 20-17. At that point, Andelman no longer worked for WEEI. “Jambalaya” never returned to the station’s airwaves. “Management is making believe I’m dead,” Andelman told the Globe in 2002.
These days, Andelman is very much alive. He lives in Boston and continues to follow the Patriots. The catchphrase he coined has been relegated to places like the door to my old bedroom. “Jambalaya” is a relic, and that’s just fine with Andelman. “A good magician never repeats his tricks,” he said.