In honor of my brother-in-law, a N’Awlins boy who was psyched his Saints won the Superbowl, I decided to link to the following article by ESPN’s “Professor” John Hollinger who normally just writes about stats. If it was just about football, I wouldn’t have been too interested, but it frames the win as part of the ongoing recovery from Katrina. With what is going on in Haiti, that feels as relevant as ever.
As soon as the Gatorade hit Sean Payton, torrents of Saints fans spilled out of every packed-to-the-gills bar and hotel in the French Quarter and CBD and made a beeline for Bourbon. Many of them ran. And as I stood at the corner of Bourbon and Canal and watched the spectacle, I was overcome by just how many people had arrived to take part.
Here’s the thing about the experience in New Orleans last night: It was as much a cultural event as a football event. The locals who flocked into all the bars in the French Quarter and CBD were joined by a crush of expats (Mrs. Professor included) who went to New Orleans—not Miami, but New Orleans—to take part. Every hotel in the city was full this weekend, and almost none of the arrivals were tourists. These were returning locals, clad in “9” jerseys and yelling “Who Dat?” to passing strangers.
When the Saints defied the odds and won, those people turned into a tsunami of humanity seeking out their fellow man. Even the ones who weren’t in the city at first made a beeline afterward—for several hours after the game, cars backed up trying to get into the city and join the fun. The revelry wasn’t short-lived, either. I wasn’t surprised that I was falling asleep to honking horns, screaming and dancing … but it took me aback was when I woke up to fly home and still heard the horns and music.
There’s a story behind the story here, and the Hornets are part of this too: A threatened community clinging to its cultural touchstones. Based on strict demographics, there is no way either the Saints and Hornets should be viable—they represent a poor city that saw 21% of its residents leave and never come back after Hurricane Katrina, one that has the nation’s 46th largest metropolitan area and not a single Fortune 500 company.
Yet both clubs are doing well. Government largesse helps, yes, but I also believe the support for those teams is in part a response to Katrina, one that says something much larger: in a nutshell, that This Thing Can Work. At some level, the idea is out there that if New Orleans can preserve the Saints and Hornets, it can preserve all the other things that make New Orleans such a unique and worthwhile place too.
[...] All told, it was a truly unique experience—a city celebrating its first championship, yes, but as a backdrop celebrating much more. New Orleans still has a long way to go in its recovery, but one can’t help but think of last night as a symbolic statement that, yes, the Big Easy is very much back.