Friday, January 22, 2010

Why I'm Rooting for the Saints

I have a friend from Louisiana, and when he and I get into a discussion, it is something to behold.

Him: 9/11 was totally a conspiracy, dude.
Me: Yeah, of course it was - between Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda cohorts.
Him: Naw, man, the gov'mint was in on it, haven't you ever heard of Peak Oil?
Me: You can't let your hatred of George W. Bush cause you to embrace any absurd hypothesis...
Him: You're a lackey of the establishment, dude.
Me: You're a conspiracy theorist nutjob!
Him: You read too many books, your common sense is buried under all those pages.
Me: Your mind is lost in a haze of pot fumes!


Me: I'm really in the mood for some cheese.
Him: Me too. Let's get some.

Anyway, like most Louisianans, my friend is obsessed with football, which made a conversation about the spectacular season of the New Orleans Saints inevitable. Yet as we engaged in our discussion, my friend made an observation that - though it should have occurred to me on its own - nevertheless took me by surprise.

The entire community--their well being at this point in time--hinges on the Saints.

What community?

All of New Orleans.
And it's the best thing ever to bridge the racial divide still very much pervasive in the South. Everybody there--it's crazy being there now---everybody's hopes are intertwined w/ the Saints.

Could you elaborate?

well, it's making residents feel proud--seriously--about where they live, where they're at in life, it's really uplifting the city, last time i was down there for a game, just walking around the city...
i noticed that social integration increased dramatically

That's wonderful.

and much of that has to do w/ the Sints
it very much is uplifting

My friend then proceeded to show me this article by Douglas McCollam:

The team didn't have a winning season in its first 20 years, won only two playoff games in the next 20, and has never made it to the Super Bowl. Like any group of penitents, long-suffering Saints fans can recite the catalogue of woes that have befallen the team, a pigskin version of the Stations of the Cross. Rarely have so many rooted for so long for so little.

Yet when it looked like the team would leave New Orleans for good in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the citizenry was bereft. Faced with a still-flooded metropolis, the city nevertheless made the Saints return a top priority. Eventually, with a firm nudge from the NFL front office, owner Tom Benson agreed to bring the franchise home. A year later, when the Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons in their inaugural home game after Katrina, big fat men, both on the field and off, held each other and wept...

It's an odd pairing in a way, this team and this town. Football is a brute game, strictly regimented, born on cold, northern fields and associated with big-shouldered cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh.

By contrast, New Orleans is a warm and dreamy place, birthplace of jazz, lover of good food, and afternoon naps, America's most feminine city. Perhaps it's appropriate that the Saints' symbol, the fleur-de-lis, is a flower. It's love all the same, a devotion so intense that thousands of screaming fans turn out on Sundays to wildly cheer the team—and that's just at the airport after an away game.

Like many love affairs, this one may end in tears. But for now the Saints have the city believing, in the team and in itself. Perfection is a difficult standard to maintain, but even if they fall short these Saints have shown New Orleans what it means to dwell, for a time at least, in a state of grace.

Now that the Packers are out of contention, I need a dog in this race, and if this isn't enough to make me root for the New Orleans Saints, I don't know what is.

1 comment:

Tiguhs Ondabayou said...

Cheers to that Matt, wish we could go down there now just so you could witness the phenomenon, the hysteria. My brother living in N.O. says the Saints are all ANYONE talks about, whether it's the families still living in tent cities or corporate execs working in high rises, everyone talks to each other about the Saints

And the Saints, hopefully, will not let us down. They know they aren't just playing for themselves, they're playing for the whole state--our present well being and future opportunities.