Sports are competitive. I get it. I also get that once the underdog becomes the big dog, the popular thing to do is take shots at the crown. But there are people who talk about the city of New Orleans, as though it peed in their soup. Last night, I encountered such an individual, and though I brushed it off at first, the things he said REALLY bothered me, because I take where I’m from to heart. I think it has become fashionable to refer to the Saints win as, “Oh blah blah blah, yeah, after Katrina, the city needed to feel good. Whatever.” All that is true. I don’t think any New Orleanian in his right mind would say that a Saints win would repair any tangible thing in the city. But what they would tell you is that the Saints are a part of us. Our key players came to our city intent on giving the fans something memorable. Despite all this “feel good story” talk, we didn’t get to the Superbowl overnight. In 2005, where a feel good story would have been most needed, we went 3-13 under Haslett. With Peyton’s first year, we went 10-6, and finally petered out at the NFC Championship game. In 2008, we went 8-8, which included getting thoroughly trounced on national television by none other than the Indianapolis Colts at the season opener. But, a story that involves hard work, focus and sacrifice doesn’t make for good television, so people don’t pay attention to that. Crafting an offense AND (gasp) defense with the talent to be a Super Bowl contender took three seasons under Payton. It was a family win, and make no mistake, the Saints were family long before Katrina.
AND FOR THE DAMN RECORD, it’s not like the shit was handed to us. Even once we had the team with the talent, we had to face some of the toughest teams in the league. And we consistently knocked the stuffing out of undefeated teams. We weren’t beating up on the Browns and the Lions. We kicked the shit out of the Patriots. Our 6′ even quarterback stood toe to toe with 6’6 golden boy and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady…and Eli Manning…and Brett Favre…and damn near everyone else sent our way. So it’s not some flukey feel good story where a ragtag bunch of misfits made good after a couple of speeches. Sean Payton is a beast, Greg Williams is a beast, Jonathan Vilma is a beast, Darren Sharper made getting interceptions almost passe, and Drew Brees is a machine. And we love it.
I”m not saying this to sell you on how good the Saints were. You saw it. We got the Lombardi. I just want you to know that whether you approve or not, we have the right to be happy about our win. Yes, Katrina happened, and like any other city in this fucked up world we live in, since it primarily impacted black, brown and otherwise marginalized people, we are still struggling just to be functional. Every New Orleanian, returned and exiled, is acutely aware of that. Others would do well to be acutely aware of the fact that you will not dictate what we allow to give us respite. To hear some folks tell it, the NFL gave us the win and every New Orleanian dropped out of college afterward. Folks are still scratching and surviving. Save the sanctimony.
Let’s be clear, no matter what happens tonight, New Orleans will still be a city steeped in corruption and chaos. No matter what happens tonight, New Orleans will be forever altered by the Katrina tragedy. No matter what happens tonight, people will still be unemployed, bears will still shit in the woods, and groupies will still have unprotected sex. And with all that, no matter what happens tonight, NO ONE can change the fact that the New Orleans Saints are the World Champions of the National Football League. And quite frankly, regardless of the outcome, I will be proud of them. They couldn’t give us a new city, but they worked their ass off to give us what they could — a little corner of happy, so muthafuckin TWO DAT.