We recall one Fall Sunday in 2005, sitting outside a store in Marksville, Louisiana, where we spent our Katrina exile. While others shopped, we listened to the Saints game on the car radio, though everything was wrong about the experience. The team was playing its home games in San Antonio whose mayor was eagerly courting the franchise to move there permanently. This particular game was held in Baton Rouge against former LSU coach Nick Saban’s Miami Dolphins. The team was not very good that year, finishing 3 and 13. Even the radio broadcast carried by a local station had a tinny sound. Worst of all, the game was not the big concern. At halftime, the announcers talked about what worried all of us the most, would the team return to New Orleans?
We thought about that day on the evening of this past October 8. All the sports talk shows were buzzing about Drew Brees becoming the all-time passing leader. The go-ahead pass could not have been more dramatic, a 62-yard bomb for a touchdown delivered before a national audience on Monday Night Football. The Superdome, which in the days after Katrina seemed ruined forever, was dazzling with its lights show and graphics. Team members piled on Brees in celebration. Outside, blinking lights of yellow and gold raced around the dome’s circumference. How far we had come since that day when we listened to the Saints on the car radio.
Booger McFarland, a former LSU standout who played eight years in the NFL, was working the sidelines for ESPN that night. (Yes, he answers to the name of “Booger.”) In a post-game show he gave a moving answer to what the evening meant to New Orleans. Going back to the post-Katrina recovery and the arrival of Drew Brees, whose career with the San Diego Chargers had been sidetracked by a shoulder injury, McFarland recalled, “The city needed help. Brees needed a home. Throughout this long journey with Sean Payton, the city and Brees rehabbed together.”
As spectacular as Brees’ record book pass completion was, one of his most memorable plays did not involve a pass, nor did it achieve any yardage. That is when he took a knee and the clock wound down to victory in Superbowl XLIV in 2010.
Sports serves us well when we can draw inspiration, and hope, from it. In this season, we can be thankful that the Saints have provided plenty of both.