I write this as John F Kennedy High School's marching band passes my house practicing for the upcoming Mardi Gras season.
After a truly entertaining season from the New Orleans Saints, we sat on the edge of our barstools, looking at one of the 8 or 9 televisions in the bar. I in my decade-old Tracy Porter jersey, was in rare form. Screaming at the TV, jumping up and down, using words I probably shouldn't have been using in public. We were excited to see our boys go to the Super Bowl a second time. And then, well, you know what happened.
There's no disputing that the NFL is a bad organization between the disingenuous caring about player safety, the rampant racism, the profiting off of our military (and ultimately, taxpayers), and countless other non-football infractions. I acknowledge this and make no excuses for continuing to watch Saints games.
Those are all much better reasons to not watch the Super Bowl (or any football games, for that matter) than a blown call during the NFC Championship game. Especially when the Saints shouldn't have been in the position where the score was that close then anyway. And especially when Drew Brees threw an interception in overtime. True, that no-call very likely cost the Saints a spot in the Super Bowl, but these facts do not take away from the fact that the people of New Orleans in no way overreacted or were too excessive by partying on Sunday instead of watching the Super Bowl.
Fans of other teams and people who just hate New Orleans in general for whatever reason have claimed it was a "protest" and that Saints fans "weren't just finding an excuse to party -- they're still mad and should get over it." Never have people been more wrong. Are some of us still bummed? Absolutely. Were most of us happy we got to day drink in the streets, don some early Mardi Gras costume pieces, boil crawfish, and listen to some classic NOLA hip-hop and bounce with thousands and thousands of our friends, family, and neighbors? Yeah you right.
To claim that we were protesting or were still genuinely angry is to completely misunderstand New Orleans and how we do things here. The only reason we'd still be salty right now is because of our food -- not a blown call. There's been some "New New Orleans" tomfoolery in recent years that whitewashes or over-exaggerates New Orleans traditions, but this celebration of our team and our city this past Sunday -- that's just classic New Orleans tomfoolery.
Our parades for Mardi Gras -- by the way, a weeks long party -- feature floats that directly skewer local and national politics and pop culture. Our funerals end with huge buffet meals and copious amounts of alcohol and some light ribbing of the deceased. People threw a parade for a friggin' cat that died at an Entergy substation that caused a blackout for a portion of the city.
What took place last Sunday is just a reflection of who we are -- a resilient people that has had to pick ourselves up and dust off our pants more than just a couple of times and about more serious things than a football game. And that's why a football game is so important to us -- the Saints bring the city together. They give us a distraction from a rising cost of living and stagnant wages and corrupt politicians and how so many of our friends and family are gone because they either died or moved after the Storm and the levee breaches and how goddamned hot it is here and for some reason we still wear these black jerseys when it's 98 degrees with 80% humidity. The players adopt New Orleans as their homes. They're not just passing through -- they live here and they love this city as much as we do.
Football is big in the south all over, for sure, but what the Saints represent for us in New Orleans, what the Saints do for us in New Orleans -- that's not just a southern love of football. It's one of the many beats that keep the incredible heart of New Orleans going.
So yeah, that missed call sucked and our heads hung low for a few days after. But instead of doing like so many other fanbases do when their team wins and they take to the streets and set fires and flip cars and smash windows, Saints fans took a loss and turned it into a pre-party for the two week party we're throwing in a week. And baby, in the words of Frank Davis, that's naturally N'awlins.
(Only he called it that)