September 25, 2012 1 Comment
The City of New Orleans
Even though I don’t live there currently, the city of New Orleans always holds a special place in my life. I was born and raised there, married there, and my parents and in-laws still live there. And it is the home of my beloved NFL football team, the New Orleans Saints.
Much like the city itself, being a fan of the Saints has always been a mixed proposition. There were lots of bust years, but when current owner Tom Benson bought the team in 1985 things generally got better, but were never fantastic. In the mid-2000s the team had settled into a malaise of mediocrity with a below average quarterback and apathetic head coach. There were glimmers of hope, that would be quickly extinguished. Then 2005 happened.
The summer of 2005 was a particularly hot one—we visited twice, once for a wedding in July, where we had to dodge a hurricane, and then again in August with some friends for a long weekend. It had been a fairly active hurricane season but nothing prepared anyone for Katrina. The city was submerged—much has been written about this, and I don’t need to say much more, except that my parents and in-laws were thankfully spared much damage.
There was much talk that the Saints were going to move away. They had to suffer the indignity of playing a “home game” in New York (I was there—it was ugly). The mayor of San Antonio actively wooed the team to move there. Additionally, the Superdome was in tatters, and the team was performing miserably.
Fortunately NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and owner Tom Benson managed to keep the team in New Orleans. We got a new coach, Sean Payton, and a new quarterback, Drew Brees. There were lots of questions surrounding the team, but the team would be coming back to a refurbished Superdome on September 25, 2006.
My dad had managed to procure season tickets with the agreement that we would come in for some of the games. I flew down for the Monday night game on Saturday morning, with legendary R&B musician Allan Toussaint, who would sing the national anthem. The city was abuzz–everyone left work around noon, and we saw a Cowboy Mouth concert in the middle of Poydras St. Things were going well for the Saints, too, they had started out 2-0, and were playing decent football.
The Saint’s opponent that night were the arch rival Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons had been tormenting the Saints with their quarterback Michael Vick, so we were fairly nervous about the opening. U2 and Green Day played a celebratory opening concert, and the whole evening felt like a giant Mardi Gras. Finally, the game started.
The Superdome is always loud, but there are two nights I will remember where it was truly electric—this was one, the other was the night the team won a birth in the Super Bowl. Anyway, the Falcons won the coin toss and started with the ball, then proceeded to go 3 downs and out. Then this happened.
ESPN had 81 seconds of dead air after that touchdown, which must be some sort of record. I don’t remember much, except hugging my dad, hugging everyone in our section. It was like in that second the city was back. Things have happened since, the Saints won the Super Bowl, but that night was magic.
Unfortunately, the protagonist of that night, the uniquely New Orleanian Steve Gleason (b|t), is dying of ALS. He’s an awesome human being though, and is fighting the fight, and living his life the best he can. He as inspiration to many, and will always be a hero to the city.