Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cool Runnings

Derice - Sanka, you dead?
Sanka - Ya, mon.

A few years ago at work, the almost entirely female office crew where I worked put up one of those silly white board quizzes that the office morale officer is in charge of. The question: what movie makes you cry.

I knew I had to post up an answer: Cool Runnings.

Any guy who watches this film and doesn't start to tear up when the Jamacian bobsled team stand up after their crash and carry their shattered sled the final yards down the run, and the hard-assed European team leader starts clapping, is either suffering from a tear duct disorder, or something slightly more fatal.

The quote at the top is a recurring comic line from every scene in which they crash first their oddball training cart and later their bobsleds. One of the team asks another (Sanka, the slightly offbeat one with the lucky egg) if he's dead. And he always answers, "ya, mon, I dead." The moment passed, they pick themselves up and drag the cart back to the top of the the hill, and try again.

The films ends after a tremendous run by which they might earn medal status ends when the cast-off sled they have managed to acquire comes apart, and there is a terrible crash. As officials slip and slide down the icy run to help them, they pull themselves out of the wreckage, pick up their sled, and carry it across the finish line, determined to show a suspicious world that they are not a joke, that their tropical nation has sent them to the Olympics not as some ganja-inspired prank but to compete as Olympians.

It is in a near victory tragically ended in defeat that they truly rise up to the level of Olympians.

Today we find ourselves in the same place. Sure, Sunday's loss to Chicago hurts, but those of us of a certain age have some mighty hard scar tissue after 40 years. We waited a long time for this game to just begin, and we will never forget it. One theme of this blog has always been Remember. Well, remember this: the New Orleans Saints just played in its first NFC championship game in franchise's 40-year history. In the process 53 men lifted up an entire city of 200,000 on their shoulders and carried us for the last five months like Duece McAlister carrying a half-dozen defenders forward.

Someday, my own children will sit with their families and remember this year, and say: in those days giants roamed the earth--not the creatures of some fairy tale but flesh-and-blood giants whose footprints will forever mark the earth like the trails of dinosaurs.

Our lives today in New Orleans are no fairy tale, any more than the season of the Saints has been a fairy tale. The sports writers (who in general get the real back story better than most journalists) found the fairy tale line irresistable in their constant pursuit of hyperbole, but the season has been a hard slog with its disappointments and its pain, just as our own lives have been since 8-29.

If the 200,000 in New Orleans have any chance of succeeding it is in part due to the New Orleans Saints, who have kept our heads high these past months. Even in defeat, they remain the model we must all emulate to save this city: heart, teamwork, faith and a willingness to dust themselves off after every play--good or bad--and get ready to bust on the snap. We have a long road ahead of us, and we will need to pick ourselves up from every defeat, and come back and go again just as the Saints have, just as we all believe they will come 2008.

Like the Jamaican bobsled team in the film, we need to remember to be who we are, and to find a way to excel by being who we are. We need to take the grief much of America gives us, to be proud of ourselves just as we are proud of our Saints, and to climb back to the top of the hill and make another run. We owe it not only to ourselves but to the New Orleans Saints. Just as they have been our inspiration for the last half-year, we need to find a way to be the city they are proud to call home until the first snap of 2008.

Bless you boys, for all you've done for us. Now its our turn.

Dang, Mark, you can make me cry like nobody else. This time you got me with: "53 men lifted up an entire city of 200,000 on their shoulders and carried us for the last five months like Duece McAlister carrying a half-dozen defenders forward."

I just put this on Loki's blog, but when ya'll were playing the Eagles, my Michael and I were texting. When the game ended, he was sittin' on his stoop smoking a cigarette and texted that he could hear random folks cheering into the night as if they had just emerged from their homes to cheer to the city. Last night I had to wonder the if the sad version of the same was happening.

I remember 1991. It was a particularly tough time for me, personally. The boys were little. Our house was on the market because we couldn't afford to keep it and The Husband was looking for work, but the lowly Atlanta Braves changed my world. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I remember when it ended, sadly, in Minneapolis. I remember being so grateful, for the ride. Somehow, I do not think that the fine citizens of your fair city will soon forget these Saints.

Great post.

Oh, and if you dig real deep you'll find that Cool Runnings was the brain child of Anthony Winkler. His son, Adam, is one of The Oldest's best friends. :)
You and Ray have said about all there needs to be said on this amazing season and how we should feel today.

Thanks, man. I gave you props.
Excellent post, my friend. Yesterday was both disappointment and victory.

The NOLA bobsled team would be a bunch of guys in respirators crashing down the stairs on a moldy refrigerator strapped to a dolly.

"Ya mon, I dead."
Great post - and Ray, loved the fridge image. I think it has been so hard, for the main reason that we've never been here before. AND it was so wonderful, because we've never been here before!
Mark, a friend sent me to your article"Cool Runnings".
I am the Cultures Editor at Hot Psychology magazine and was wondering if you would be willing to allow us to publish the article in our magazine?

You can reach me at

Thank You

Pamela S. Meek
Freelance Writer and
Our Cultures Editor
Hot Psychology Magazine

dang brah. the last of my sunday funk has been lifted. thanks for beating the sun shinning tomowrow.

i had hoped seeing the sun shine tomowrow would lift the last of my three day malise but you beat ol' sol to the punch.

again thank you for the st. expidite cuz.
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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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