By now the relationship between the city and the NBA franchise that left another city to move here has solidified. Counseling is no longer needed; there is true love.
There were some shaky times. The first season of becoming familiar with each other; a season with the league’s worst record. Two seasons away in Oklahoma City. But over the last two seasons, romance has bloomed. The city and the team belong together like birds and bees – albeit hornets.
At first it was said that this relationship would never work because New Orleans is a football town. Truth is, practically every city in the country is a football town from August through December. At the high school, college and pro level, no sport dominates public passion like football. Because of the Sugar Bowl, the Saints and the LSU Tigers, the game has more of an emotional hold than in other cities, but seasons end, fortunes change. As a new year approaches there’s a welcome rhythm to a bouncing ball.
Just because it’s our home team, we would automatically be attached to the Hornets, but there are other reasons why we find this franchise to be special:
• George Shinn. The Hornets’ majority owner had every reason not to commit to New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina exile, but he had faith when few others did. He believed he could make the franchise work here at a time when pundits and professors were saying the task was impossible. Whatever source of faith has guided Shinn has fit well into the spiritual culture of the city, and it’s worked.
• New Orleans on their chest. Shinn is a believer in having the city’s name on the team’s uniforms both at home and on the road. While other teams may have their mascot name on their jerseys, the ESPN highlights over 80-plus nights a year show professionals wearing the name “New Orleans.” It is a great civic gesture that makes the town look even more big-league.
• Class on the court. That an article about the Hornets has gone this far without mentioning star point guard Chris Paul probably sets an NBA record. We mean no slight to Paul; we’re just impressed by the institution for which he works.
Nevertheless, Paul himself is impressive in his performance and his character. The names “Peja,” David West, “Ju-Ju” and “Mo Pete” are now familiar. Coach Byron Scott has won while wearing a uniform as a player and well-tailored suits as a coach. The Hornets have reached the playoffs for two years in a row and, though they sputtered toward the end last season, they’re still regarded as one of the league’s top teams. For all the ingredients that go into a team’s success, wining has a way of providing many answers.
We are anticipating a great season and look forward to the games not just for the athleticism but for all the other activity that keeps the experience lively. The future, we trust, is bright for the New Orleans Hornets. Now, if only we could do something about the Lakers.
There is no person in contemporary New Orleans who spoke more boldly and proudly for his people than Joe Maselli. Maselli, who died Oct. 18, will be remembered as a champion for the cause of Italian Americans. A native of New Jersey who found both love and life in New Orleans, his adopted city was a fertile ground for Italian culture and causes. This was the city with the highest Sicilian immigration in the country, but it was also where the Mafia image first took hold. Maselli would bristle at the stereotypes. His life was lived showing the grandeur of Italian culture. The Piazza Italia on Poydras Street exists because of him, as does the riverfront statue dedicated to immigrants. Influenced by the national Italian American Society he established something of similar intent here but reversed the words, putting, as he would say, America first.
Maselli was a classic example of the non-native coming to the city embracing it and making it better. May his life be an influence to many.