Monday, September 25, 2006

Win, Lose or Draw

We have already won.

This is not some Pop Warner game, and I won't pretend that the final score is irrelevant. A win will be a tremendous lift. What I'm saying is that a loss should not be taken as defeat. The final numbers on the scoreboard are not the measure by which this game will be remembered.

It is a home game, at home, in the Sacredome.

It is a sellout.

These are the measure of our success, the victory we will carry out of the stadium tonight regardless of the score. We have proved that we are coming home, and will show the entire nation. The greatest moment tonight won't be repeated endlessly on ESPN, but it will bring tears to the eyes of a million and more survivors of Katrina and the Federal Flood, the moment the Saints run out onto the field.

While I understand blogger bigezbear's concern (echoed through a half-dozen sports, and NOLA blogs yesterday) that the state can find $91 million to fix up the Sacredome for a millionaire's club like the NFL and can't find the money we need to rebuild our homes and businesses. I hear similar laments from da po' blog and a reasonable worry that its all a distraction that will give the wrong impresssion. That's all true, and for the moment completely irrelevant.

Yes, America, don't forget as the stars sing and the game is played that half-a-million people are still homeless, and 23,000 square miles of the United States were devestated. Vast stretches of New Orleans don't look much different than it did a year ago. But that is not today's story. Today's story is that a quarter million of us are home, and so are the Saints. Rebirth is not just a slogan, or a dream, it is a fact on the ground that those quarter-million make every day with a hall-of-fame worthy effort.

Forgive us if you think it frivilous to get so worked up over a game when there's so much to be done, so many people still suffering. This is a moment we all needed, just as we needed Mardi Gras and Jazzfest (and FQ Fest and St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's and every other damn celebration), not to tell the world that we're OK (We are Not OK), but to tell ourselves that we can make it.

The Saints are one of the things that make us a city, that overcomes the immense divides of race and class that we struggle with every day. On a Sunday afternoon (or occasionally a Monday or Sunday night) we put all of that aside. We are all Saints fans. We need that unity, that sense of common purpose, as much as we need to chalk up one more W for the season, even against the detested division rivals.

We need this day--win or loss--more than we needed Mardi Gras, a day which contrary to popular belief doesn't attact everyone. Remember the great debate of last Fall over whether we should have Mardi Gras? And Jazz Fest, which is priced beyond the reach of many Orleanians, is as much for the tourists (even if they are the best of that class) as for us. The Saints are one of the things we all share, like oyster po'boys and red beans and rice, that cross all of the barriers, that makes us one people.

To paraphrase the old Dixie Beer ad, ain't nothin' more New Orleans than the Saints.

I hope like hell the Saints win, but I've been a fan since I was a small child. I can still remember the big-headed logo character, and the gold berets my dad bought for my brother and I. Its been a hard road, holding on even when I lived in D.C. where everyone became an instant Redskins fan even though hardly anyone I met grew up there. Hell, yes, we can lose. We've done it before, and we'll do it again. At worst, let that remind us what a long haul this is, that we are a city in rebuilding mode and a decade away from glory. At best, I wanted to be reminded why two sentences ago I didn't write "they" when I spoke of the Saints. I instinctivly and correctly wrote "we".

All I really ask is that the Saints play like winners, because that's what we deserve. To be an Orleanian today is to be someone who can stare adversity and defeat in the face, get down in stance, and bust like hell on the snap. That's not the way outsiders think of us, or of most people in the south. The words "lazy and shiftless" come to mind. We know better. Look around the city at the houses coming back and the businesses reopening, without a dime of real help from the government, and we know: we are fighters, and we're in this to win. Don't start no shit; won't be no shit.

That is the real victory, the cause for celebration. That is why we are all winners already.

If you are home, or you're working to come home, you are a winner. If you can't come home, or choose not to, but carry New Orleans in your heart and know you always will and are wearing Black and Gold today in Green Bay or Atlanta or Houston or Dallas, you are a winner. If you bought season tickets, or if you wanted to but couldn't afford them, you are a winner. When you walk out of that stadium or stand up and turn off the TV tonight, regardless of the score, you are a winner.

We may not have fixed the roof of the Dome, or had much influence with the NFL. But we're building a city around that stadium, the 68,000 some odd season ticket holders, and every one of us who won't make it outside. Without us, there's be no point to the Dome, the Saints, any of it. That's why we've won tonight's battle even before kick-off. The rest is just going to be a real fine party or a hell of a wake. And this being New Orleans, its always hard to tell the difference.

I get all teary just thinking about it. I'll be thinking of you guys tonight.
But what if we lose?
Hey, the golden moment will be--as I said--when they take the field. Every Saints fan knows what its like to loses. Its out history. It doesn't diminish the day in the long run. If we lose then tomorrow, we will all still be Saints fans in solidarity, doing what we've learned to do over the years.
You won. You will win in the battle to save your city.
When the team plays with the energy and determination that we value, it drives us to greatness.

Your blog talks of envisioning New Orleans. Our New Orleans Saints are helping us look at each other better ALL OVER TOWN.

Everywhere you go this week, we are in love with our city, our neighborhood, ourselves.

People aren't as impatient, pressured, edgy this week because of the inner smerk we wear.
We have proved that we are coming home, and will show the entire nation.
More than just one Nation.
Blessings to you and yours.
The people of Mississippi rebuilt. They had help. New Orleans has received help and billions of dollars. When will the people of New Orleans get to work? Who are you waiting for to do it for you? The government?
As the expert, I can assist. I was specially registered to participate in discussion.
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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