For my out of town friends
David Letterman said last night, while waiting for Drew Brees to get through the Lincoln Tunnel, that unless you're from New Orleans, you probably don't understand the significance of this game. He's right.
I grew up a football fan, watching Lombardi's Packers with my dad. I then spent a great deal of time in my twenties hanging out with a group of guys who were rabid fans. At the time I was on the East Coast but was a Raiders fan, so much so that I couldn't ever manage to get LA Raiders out of my mouth when they moved. Hey, for that matter, I still call the Colts the Baltimore Colts. I was standing on Mission Street in San Francisco, with fireworks in my hand, when the 49ers won, screaming along with the rest of the hometown fans. And hey, Joe Montana was easy to like.
Then for many years I didn't watch football at all, or only when the playoff teams were really really good. Then I moved to New Orleans before Katrina. I learned that the fans here were unlike any I'd ever seen. Being a Saints fan is NOT like being a generic football fan. It seems somehow to float infectiously through the air, be coded in native's DNA, or grabbed at like Cinderella's invitation to the ball. Say YES, you silly bitch, and count your blessings they asked ya to join 'em.
Then along came Katrina. Nearly five years ago now, but present every day on some street where the foundation is all that's left of a house. Yeah. Still. Yeah. Really. We've spent five years defending our right to exist, heard endless stupid and wrong comments like "natural disaster" and "below sea level." We've eaten it, mostly. We've seen comments sections in national newspapers full of comments about how stupid we are to live here, how sinful we are cuz we know how to have fun, how idiotic it is to rebuild.
Seeing the Dome battered from the outside and filled with pain on the inside was hard for us. That goofy looking building (just my opinion!) became a symbol of enormous proportions. A symbol of a city in ruins, of a people displaced, of a status that was outside what most people take for granted as Americans.
One day the Dome was gleaming again. Sounds silly, but it was hopeful. Some people were upset that the Dome had been repaired and homes weren't. I got that. Nevertheless, that Dome's white top gleaming in the sun seemed to be a first step toward clearing the tears out of that place.
Then the Saints came home to play. We all cried. In 2006 Payton and Brees came to town. And they GOT it. Or got GOT by New Orleans. It happens. They knew they were playing football but that they were doing something else as well, and they gave a shit about that something else. Yeah, I know, I know. Sounds absurd. We even said that as we were sobbing, "Hey, this is really ridiculous, but they're HOME." Someone was home. Always a reason to cry while celebrating.
This year we could feel it. Brees said in the Couric interview that it was destiny. That word was bandied about in bars all over town, in living rooms across the city, said out loud with that tiny doubt unspoken and buried in our shoe. It was tangible hope, and hope hasn't always been in great supply in post-Katrina New Orleans.
So to answer my out of town friends' questions, with enough time to brave the cold and go to the parade <---which is what we do---I am including some videos as definition.
Who Dat: The entire state of Louisiana decided to forego the use of the "th" sound for the last couple of months. Where ya goin'? Dere. Whatcha doin'? Dat. We did keep the "th" sound for the word "they," spat out of mouths screaming under second line parasols as the chant is often tagged onto the end of The Saints Go Marching In. After the NFC championship and now the Superbowl, the chant of the Who Dat Nation can be heard spontaneously on any street corner, in any bar, coming out of car windows, or hollered in a store, at which point anyone within earshot will join in. Here's what it sounds like:
The Dome as Home and Who Dat:
As for Crunk. Well that's a bit harder. The song by the Ying Yang Twins was played everytime the Saints scored. It was played loud, louder than the 100+ decibel fans could scream. It is also blasting through the city as we speak and will be heard another 200 times this evening during the parade. Hell, it's what I've woken up to in the jukebox in my head for the last two days. Crunk is celebrating, posturing, drinking, hugging, crying, screaming, dancing with a little threat thrown in:
Okay, okay, okay, okay. My guess is that the next time someone asks us to defend our right to be here, someone will say, "Tell them that they oughta run."
This is about so much more than a game. It's about determination. It's about hope realized. It's about grinning, real real wide!
Now, where the hell did I put my parasol the other night?