It’s playoff day. The entire city is buzzing. Everyone is happy. Even people in work uniforms are wearing black and gold.
Football? What’s that? I’m talking about the Saints!
We go blue in the face talking about this adopted home of ours and in light of the questions — How can you live in New Orleans? Why do you stay there? How IS New Orleans these days? — I was hoping to find some words to describe what it’s like to be here right now. In this season, this day, this moment, where every living thing is thinking and wishing and hoping for the same thing. This particular marvel of unified thought and energy is actually quite common in New Orleans — we all come together each and every Mardi Gras Day, when we reach up hopeful hands for a Zulu Coconut — but in this instance, in this time and place, we are coming together in a whole different way. This is something that we can be proud of on a National scale. In a way and with a spirit that is unique. The examples are everywhere, but it’s still hard to explain; take this, written last month while we were still undefeated:
… These are strange and beautiful days in New Orleans, and they must be seen to be believed. … Last week, when I went down to experience the mania over the Saints’ undefeated season firsthand, I found myself not sure whether every street was a dream. Some moments made me laugh, and others were so full of a desperate love that I had tears in my eyes.
Where do you even begin? Maybe you describe the couture shops that have replaced the latest fashions on the storefront mannequins with Saints T-shirts? Maybe you tell how vampire novelist and native New Orleanian Anne Rice, never much of a football fan and now living on the West Coast, recently ordered a Drew Brees jersey with “Anne” on the back. Maybe you use numbers: 84 percent of the televisions in town were tuned to the recent Monday night game against the Patriots. Maybe you use bizarre trends, such as an NOPD cop telling me the 911 calls almost stop when the Saints play …
There are other things, too. The Cinderella story of our Saints resonates far beyond the football fan base. Read any article about New Orleans then go to the comments and it all makes sense. We see the hate: the assertions that the city should be left to rot, the value judgments on our population, the incredible lack of compassion and ignorance of fact. Yeah, we know it’s some Ditto-head in dark, lonely basement apartment, spewing hate while some porn site loads on another browser window. But we also know that this loser isn’t spouting off thoughts that haven’t occurred in the minds of more reasonable people. The fact that our team is composed of players who were similarly doubted, or misjudged, or miscast is simply part of our shared history, where defeat, resurgence, rebuilding, and celebration are all part of the package:
” … They are a motley group, undrafted guys and late-round fliers, players cast off from other teams. Brees landed in town after an injury convinced the Chargers that his best days were behind him. “When we came here,” he has said, “I was in the process of rebuilding, as well.”
Running back Mike Bell was out of football. So was cornerback Mike McKenzie, who watched the games from the stands with a mouthful of food before getting the call a few weeks ago. Darren Sharper arrived unwanted and has resurrected his career. Running back Pierre Thomas wasn’t drafted. Star wide receiver Marques Colston wasn’t drafted until the seventh round of the 2006 draft, and his college football program, Hofstra, just folded.
It goes on and on. This is a team of underdogs. …”
I know that folks love their home teams, their home cities, and all stuff that comes with it. Every place has something special about it. But today? This season? Well, the professional sport writers put it best:
May I root against the New Orleans Saints?
No, you may not. Rooting against the Saints is like rooting against Elin Nordegren. They’re the Sentimental Team of the Century; if Dick Enberg were calling the NFC championship game, he’d need a trailer truck of Kleenex. Even if you forget everything that New Orleans endured during Hurricane Katrina—and how could you?—they’re the Saints, the former Aints, one of the most hard-luck franchises in the history of hard luck. Not long ago, newborns came into the world in New Orleans hospitals with tiny grocery bags on their heads.
If the Saints win this weekend, we expect the Louisiana Superdome to levitate off the ground, stop at Parkway Bakery & Tavern for a roast beef po’boy and fly straight to Miami for the Super Bowl.
Around here? We’re preparing for take-off.
Wanna come along? This will help out.
Or, if you need to ease into it, go with the U.S. Marine Corps Band.