In July my family and I moved to New Orleans. I tried, in vain, to prepare myself for this new journey by reading any and every book I could on this city (still am). One repetitive theme throughout all of the narratives: The Saints. I remember watching the first Monday Night game the Saints played in the Superdome, post-Katrina but I couldn't get my head around why the game was so important to the city. With all the suffering in the city, homes and lives still "under water" it just seemed juvenile to devote so much energy to a frivolous football game. Then I read 1 Dead in Attic, Chris Rose finally provided the proper perspective on the game - the game was more than a NFL game it was a greater symbol for the rebirth of the city and the people. But still it did not sink in, fully.
As the season approached and as I prepared sermons folk kept telling me how attendance and attention revolved around the Saints schedule. I was arrogant enough to think I knew that in reality not everyone was a Saints fan. So we scheduled a Jazz Brunch in September which also happened to be opening day for the Saints. Although it was pouring down rain outside folk packed the fellowship hall for a wonderful day of worship. I thought hah, the Saints are big, but they aren't that big.
The season progressed, the wins kept coming and the fever kept growing. Sunday attendance was affected, definitely. And I soon realized, yeah they are that big, they are important to the civic life of the this city.
We kept hearing folk say "Who Dat?" I could not, for the life of me, figure out this bizarre saying. It reminded me of the way folk would giggle when I pronounced (slowly) Pahwl-tuck-eht instead of a quick Pah-tuck-eht. I felt so strange, alien, and corny saying Who Dat? Then a parishioner gave me a couple of tickets to a game, I was reluctant to go but did. The VOR and I obtained the services of a sitter, she dressed in black and gold, me in lime green and jeans.
The experience at the game was amazing, liturgical even with the dancing, collective singing, range of emotions, and release of so much hope. The game was a baptism. As The VOR and I rode the street car back home, I knew we made the right decision to move here - as crazy as this place may be!
New Orleans is still a "broken city." Hardship stained schools, libraries not open on Fridays, no recycling, Charity hospital still closed, roads full of potholes, and homes still with the National Guard spray paint "icons." The people are still broken, always on the verge of tears and just looking for something to hold onto for hope and new life. More than anything the Saints fill that need.
Last night after the win the sports and news media focused on the party on Bourbon Street (rightly so, it was amazing to watch the festivities) but folk were celebrating all over the region. In uptown there were fireworks, folk beeping their horns, folk screaming and yelling, and camped out on the neutral ground. The local news said today might as well be a holiday b/c aint nobody going to work today. This morning as I took the kids to school they were right, the streets normally packed with morning commuters, were for the most part, clear.
This morning before #s 1, 2, & 3 said good morning they wanted to know if The Saints won. In a past life and in past times I would resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon but not now. I admit jumping on, and loving it!
Great ESPN article here from a few weeks ago.
And from the NY Times.