People who meet me for the first time tell me I look like a Manning (with which I disagree), and people who know me better tell me I don’t know how to celebrate (which might be true). So Sunday night, when I leapt in the air and let loose a battle roar to celebrate the New Orleans Saints’ decisive victory over the Colts, it took some people by surprise.
I’m not a Saints fan. I’ve never really rooted for a football team –– at least, not sober. I’ll confess further that I’ve grown increasingly annoyed over the past six weeks as friends of mine back in the Big Easy have beleaguered me with updates about the Saints’ triumphant season, especially considering how few of those friends would have cared about the score of a Saints game even as recently as last year. I would sarcastically tell my former editor that “the weather must be mighty fair down in Louisiana.”
But the truth is that, underneath my sarcasm and bewilderment, I was a little jealous. It’s a happy time for New Orleans, and surely no city ever deserved it more. The people have known their share of grief and now, even if I don’t fully understand the reason, they know some measure of joy. It’s a good thing for the city, if for no better reason than that it’s impossible for it to be a bad thing.
And of course, the Saints were the underdog. I expect the victory would have been almost hollow if New Orleans had been favored to win; it seems that the Saints, like their city, fight best when the fighting is hardest.
So as I sat at a bar in Central New Jersey, sipping a Sazerac (which was too sweet and served in the wrong glass) and bracing for the icy walk home, I buoyed my spirits with thoughts of New Orleans; it was warm down there, I knew, and the news showed me that there was enough celebration going on without me. The weather was fair, but that was a good thing.
As I ran today along a snowy towpath and pined for the sweltering heat of the Mississippi River levee trail, I thought, “What next? The Saints are world champs, there’s a new mayor, and it’s Fat Tuesday in eight days!” Although I miss New Orleans now perhaps more than ever, I’m glad to know that things are finally looking up.
So although I may never paint my face black and gold or scream “Who Dat?!” at passersby, I’d like to join the rest of New Orleans in telling our Saints, “Thank you.” For the city proper, it was the orgiastic future we all knew was coming. For me, even though I was clapping hands with coworkers and strangers in the frigid northeastern winter, I was home again, if only for a moment.
Alex Gecan is a former intern of Renaissance Publishing. He currently lives in Princeton, N.J.