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Bigger Than Just Football
Why the Saints loss has me looking backward
One of my favorite David Sedaris essays, “The Youth in Asia,” looks at how the death of pets can represent so much more, causing one to reflect back and mourn more than just the beloved animal: “The cat's death struck me as the end of an era. The end of my safe college life, the last of my 30-inch waist, my faltering relationship with my first real boyfriend – I cried for it all and spent the next several months wondering why so few songs were written about cats.”
In many ways, that’s where I am with the Saints’ season. Yes, I’m sad they lost that game. But the whole thing has made me melancholy all out of proportion to the actual loss.
When the Saints last were having this kind of season, I wrote this. It was a celebration of my city coupled with feeling the loss of my brother all over again, thinking about how happy he would have been to see the Saints actually winning for once and proving my dad, a cynic and a man who loves to hate the Saints, wrong.
What I wasn’t writing about at that time – because I was too deeply invested in living it – was my failing first marriage. Jamie and I officially separated in mid-April 2010, and those Saints wins were the only bright spots in a bleak, tense, sad fall and winter while we grappled with what the hell we were going to do once we realized we couldn’t stay married any longer.
It might seem silly, but the moment when I truly knew our marriage was over was the day the Saints played the Rams, who were still in Jamie’s hometown of St. Louis back then.
It was Nov. 15, 2009, the day before what would turn out to be my sister’s last-ever birthday. The Saints had won nine straight. The Rams had lost all but one game. We played in St. Louis. At the time, continuing our winning streak seemed like a matter of utmost importance to me, and I told Jamie he better not be pulling for St. Louis, his home team.
“I pulled for the Rams when I lived up there unless they were playing the Saints!” I told him, not even hearing my hypocrisy. “If you’re not rooting for the Saints right now, I don’t even want to hear about it. Go watch the game somewhere else.”
“Relax,” he said. “Of course I am pulling for the Saints. The Rams suck this season.”
But at halftime, the score was tied, and suddenly he was excited. “Oh, man,” he said, “it would be great if we were the ones to break this streak!”
“‘We?’” I lashed out. “What the hell do you mean, ‘we’??? I thought you said you were pulling for the Saints! Now you want the Rams to be the ones to beat us? You’re a fair-weather fan, Jamie, and a carpetbagger and an asshole!”
I meant it. I wasn’t joking. It sounds over-the-top even to me now, but at the time, I felt a sincere betrayal. To me, his allegiance to St. Louis was representative of every issue we’d encountered since leaving the Midwest (his home) to move to New Orleans (my home) and his failure to really adapt to life here and my unwillingness to move anywhere else.
The Saints ended up winning that game, 28-23, extending our win streak to 10… but exactly five months later, I was packing a suitcase and crying while telling Ruby that Mom and Dad loved her very much but were going to live in two houses from now on.
It’s hard not to think back on that now, especially with him back in St. Louis. He sent me a text wishing the Saints well early on Sunday, but it was clear that he was pulling against the Rams (everyone in St. Louis hates them now that they’re in Los Angeles) rather than for the Saints – and his real grief on Sunday came from the Chiefs’ overtime loss, not the Saints’.
Please understand I’m not saying my divorce was over a football game. Jamie and I married too young, had incompatible goals, and grew apart rather than together. I was too much of a workaholic. He was too much of a slacker. My second-trimester miscarriage and subsequent high-risk pregnancy were devastating and almost unbearably stressful, respectively, for us both, and we handled it in very different ways. We resented each other for dozens of various things, both justified and un-, and we were petty instead of magnanimous.
But that game, for some reason, crystallized all of our issues, and after that, I knew in my gut that we weren’t coming back from where we were.
So yeah, I’m sad about the way this season ended. And it turns out that, even nine years later, I’m sad about the way my marriage ended.
But there’s always another season – and for me, there was another marriage, too.
My husband and I just celebrated our seventh anniversary – longer than Jamie and I were married – and although we certainly do fight, we’ve both learned lessons from our previous marriages.
And it definitely helps that I know, no matter what, he’s not ever going to pull for the Rams.