I’ve been a part of winning teams before. Although they were never my team in the same way the Saints are, the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000, and it was hard not to be excited, being so close right there in Columbia, Mo.
I watched the game with my college roommates in our rundown apartment in East Campus as the Rams beat the Titans, 23 to 16. It was snowing outside, and I made enchiladas and margaritas that we were, technically, all too young to drink. We cheered and hugged as the final seconds ticked away, but there was no dancing in the streets –– maybe because of the snow –– and certainly no tears.
Six years later, in the autumn of 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. My husband and I were out at our favorite restaurant in Fayette, Mo., with a bunch of his coworkers, and again, the whole restaurant yelled and high-fived as the game’s outcome became clear, but then the excitement sort of fizzled, and we all went back to our meals. There were no fireworks, no chaos and no crying.
St. Louisans are fabulous people. They’re practical and sensible and levelheaded, and they make pretty good beer. They like a good time –– they celebrate Mardi Gras –– but they also have a strong work ethic –– they celebrate it on a Saturday. In short, St. Louis is a stoic city with stoic people.
I’ve heard St. Louis and New Orleans described as sister cities, and in many ways that’s accurate. Both cities were born from the Mississippi River, after all. But St. Louis is the perfect, popular, practical sister, the responsible one who wears penny loafers and works on the school paper and never misses curfew. New Orleans is the flamboyant, fun, flaky younger sister, the one who’s in the drama club and always throwing temper tantrums and driving drunk and standing you up, the one you can never stay mad at because she’s just so damn charming and funny and she looks at you with huge apologetic eyes and cries real tears.
In the days after the Super Bowl and World Series victories, there were triumphant parades through downtown St. Louis. I went to both, the latter seven months pregnant. And both times, I felt wildly out of place. The first time Jamie took me to a Catholic Mass, it was just close enough to the Episcopalian services I grew up attending that I felt at ease: I knew the prayers, I knew the hymns, I knew the sequence of events. And then we said the Lord’s Prayer, and everyone else stopped reciting it after “deliver us from evil” while I kept on going in a now-silent church with “for Thine is the Kingdom and the … ohhhhh.” And everyone turned to look at me. Being at the St. Louis parades was a lot like that: It seemed familiar. I thought I knew how to behave at a parade. But it turns out –– who knew? –– that St. Louis parades are way more restrained than New Orleans parades. They throw bubble gum but not beads. No one gets overly excited. The floats are very toned down. And again: There are no tears.
There are definitely moments when I long for the functionality of St. Louis, when I wish New Orleans could grow up just a tiny bit or work just a little more efficiently. There are moments I do briefly miss the Midwest. But during parades –– no. Not even a little bit.
Because I know that, win or lose, the Saints parade on Tuesday will be the kind of parade I’m used to, the kind full of sloppy emotions, joy and sadness and music and cacophony –– and tears.