It’s early summer in New Orleans and that means one thing: Who Dat, baby!

While the rest of the country ponders heat and humidity, summer vacations, beach reading, baseball and backyard barbeques – and while the other Gulf Coast states ponder the start of hurricane season – early summer in New Orleans lights the flames of football fever, the annual process of faith over reason.

The Saints are, and have been for decades, the single most unifying force in our community; the one superseding element that binds us all together despite race, class, age, gender and politics. On Sundays in the fall, the Superdome has always been a laboratory for the American idyll, for the collective gathering of our better angels.

On Game Day, we are one.

Until we weren’t. Until Colin Kaepernick and then the others and then … the Saints.

We took a knee. Or, if your social and political leanings dictate, “they” took a knee. And everything changed.

Last season, folks around here – well around everywhere, I guess – drew lines in the sand. Either you’re with the players or you’re not. Their sideline protests sullied the sport for you or it didn’t. It was a big deal or it wasn’t. You renounced your citizenship in the Who Dat Nation or you didn’t.

The players were disrespecting our anthem, our flag, our troops, our country. Except they weren’t.

I’m going to assume, since you are patronizing this fine, learned and lofty publication, that you are able to see through the smoke and mirrors and hear above the rabble and din and parse the circumstances on your own thoughtful term

But back to the point. Maybe you stopped rooting for the Saints when they took a knee last year. Maybe you cancelled your season ticket subscription. Maybe you burned your old Rickey Jackson jersey. Maybe you swore off them forever; or at least until they made a run in the playoffs. Whatever.

Or maybe you grouse about it, online and to your friends, and it offends your patriotic sensibilities, but you still go to the games because, well … because it’s Game Day. It’s ritual. Church. I mean, what the hell else are you supposed to do?

So to those of you who suffer this indignity but still go to the games, for those who loathe this blatant disrespect of flag of country, I want to ask you to undertake your own anthropological study come Game Day: When the National Anthem begins to play in the Dome, instead of standing at attention, venture up (or down, depending on your seat location and socio-economic status) to the nearest concourse or mezzanine or lounge or concession stand or restroom or smoking area.

It’s doubtful that you’ll see anyone taking a knee there, disrespecting the troops and defiling the flag. Instead, you’ll see your fellow patriots ordering bloody marys, high-fiving, shouting “Who Dat!” macking on the fine ladies in Drew Brees jerseys and generally expressing their right to live in the moment and enjoy themselves on their own terms, regardless of what you think they should be doing. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right?

You won’t see anyone taking a knee out on the concourse, but you’ll see people wiping mustard off their faces and trading bro-hugs and taking Jello shots and talking about what traitors the players who take a knee are. Wander into the restroom and you won’t see anyone taking a knee, but someone taking a dump. During the National Anthem.

Now I ask you: Who, exactly, is disrespecting the troops?

These are the Patriot Games. WE are all pawns!

And who wants to be a Patriot, anyway? Aren’t you as sick of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as everyone else?

The true standard of a Patriot is to protest. Think about it: Who were the first Patriots? Protesters all. Against oppression and what they perceived as affront against their civil liberties and freedom to express themselves.

True dat. Who dat. Love the game or leave it.