Regional Reports from across the state complied and edited by Jeanne Frois
(page 5 of 5)
Greater New Orleans
CAUSE TO CELEBRATE
In a profoundly beautiful twilight on the Friday before the Saints confronted the Minnesota Vikings, I drove home from work half- listening to the radio. For some reason, I switched at random to a station I’d never listened to and found myself riveted by a recording of Green Day and U2’s version of “The Saints Are Coming.”
One year before this recording, New Orleans lay under water like the lost continent of Atlantis; the New York Times had written an editorial that described our home as having gone through its death and said it was ultimately finished.
The recording I heard took place the night in 2006 when they performed it before the Saints-Atlanta Falcons game; captured in it was the full-throated cry of the crowd in the Dome: New Orleanians raising the rafters with their triumphant cries of survival and return and intent to rebuild. I’ll admit I drove home rather transfixed by the almost mystical experience –– the power of the music; the roar of the crowd; and the oddly prophetic words written in 1978 by a Scottish punk rocker, Richard Jobson, that began with a verse from “House of the Rising Sun”: “There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun,” followed by:
A drowning sorrow floods the deepest grief, How long now?
Until the weather change condemns belief, How long now?
The Saints are coming, the Saints are coming...
There were times in the long history of the Saints that I remember with much comedy, moments the boys in black and gold provided me with belly laughs. I remembered in 1988 leaving the television for a few minutes toward the end of a Saints game they were winning. Ironhead Heyward was a member then. I rejoined my family to see them in torture.
“What’s wrong?” I asked them.
“Ironwood dropped the ball,” groaned my mother, who could murder names in moments of excitement.
Then there was the end of a 1999 game when they were also leading; in an attempt to block a pass in the end zone, a Saints player only succeeded in volleyballing it right into the hands of the opponent for a touchdown and a win. The announcer said, “I think the Saints dropped the chalupa!”
A legendary caller known as Abdul D. Tentmakur calling Buddy Diliberto’s show on WWL radio stating he lost all his sheep betting on the game, Russell Erxleben pretending to faint instead of tackling of a runner for a touchdown return: It goes on and on, until now.
It took a lot of character and courage for the likes of Drew Brees and Sean Payton to come to New Orleans right after Katrina, even when some of her denizens left by choice. This team was composed of mostly free agents, some of whom life gave lemons. But they banded together around Payton and Brees like Robin and his Merry Men to beat the odds and champion those who had been written off. They decided to make black-and-gold lemonade, like the New Orleans residents who would not go quietly into the night or have their beloved home dismissed as dead. Maybe it was inspiration on a two-way street. They played out their love for New Orleans on the gridiron. The former joke of the NFL has provided it with one of its most magnificent stories.
The Saturday before the “men in dresses parade,” honoring Diliberto’s claim he would wear a dress if the Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl, I happened to be in a women’s shoe store. A very burly man with a moustache rushed in and announced to no one in particular that he needed to try on the “largest women’s shoes [they] could find for the Buddy D parade.”
I watched in hilarious fascination as he sank his sock-covered feet into gargantuan pumps, stilettos and stacked heels.
The cold windy night of Dat Tuesday’s Saints Super Bowl Victory Parade, I dodged enormous crowds of people happier than any I had ever seen in many Carnival seasons. Largely local, they were a riotous but well-behaved crowd.
New Orleans lives. We have overcome, and at times, we have even triumphed.