NFL needed the spark Saints would have brought to Super Bowlby J.W. Miller on 01/22/18
Yes, I watched the NFL conference championship games Sunday, and it’s a shame the Saints missed out. Not only because Drew Brees & Co. surely would have been more competitive than the Vikings, but I believe that after a depressing season filled with protests and concussion protocols and other issues that reflected a wobbly league office, the NFL needed the spark that the Saints and their fans would have provided.
Instead, we are stuck with the Patriots and Eagles. Welcome to the annual New England Patriots Invitational, where this year the storm troopers from the Death Star will spot the delegation from the Cheesesteak Capital of the World a 28-3 lead before their customary fourth-quarter wakeup call! Brought to you by the folks at Booooorinnnng TV! At least the Eagles spared us repeated showings of “the Minnesota Miracle” for the next two weeks!
Why do I think the Saints would have been a much-needed shot in the NFL's arm? Let me count the ways. No other team in the NFL mirrors the personality, attitude and joie de vivre that binds a professional team with its fans. Emotion is far more rampant than logic in the Big Easy, which is one reason expressions of devotion to our team spontaneously burst forth like daffodils in springtime. Look at who we are talking about. Many Saints fans look like they just stumbled off a Mardi Gras float; they should come into the Superdome on floats since they dress the part. You can see religious leaders - the Pope and Moses are regulars - movie stars like Batman and Darth Vader, Whistlehead in a Rickey Jackson jersey, clowns both scary and whimsical, Dickensian characters, the Tin Man, multiple glittering Elvii and season-appropriate characters such as Santa Claus, black and gold turkeys, skeletons and the Great Pumpkin.
New Orleans is fertile ground for such characters to germinate. After the Saints’ first taste of success, Who Dat emotion took on many forms. A restaurant commercial became a raucous mantra of "Ka-Ching!" every time the Saints did something good on the field. Other songs or slogans were commandeered and Saints’ success was glorified with “Who Let the Dogs Out?” or a friendly warning that “Here Come the Saints,” or even a non-sensical invitation from an obscure singing duo called the Ying Yang twins for fans to “staaannnnd up and get Crunk.” (All catchy unless you’re riding in a Mardi Gras float and hear “Crunk” played in your ear 762 times over an eight-hour ride.)
Our ready force of musicians are willing to memorialize Saints’ success with their own twist, as occurred when a head coach’s impromptu shuffle in a winning locker room went viral. Sean Payton’s celebratory dance following the 31-26 win over Carolina birthed a hip-twisting song by trumpeter Shamarr Allen, whose creative lyrical rap goes something like “Sean Payton, Sean Payton, Sean Payton, Sean Payton…” Within a day or two, local kindergartners had become You Tube stars with their version of the “Sean Payton” dance, and Allen rose from obscurity to folk hero. He even penned a sequel after the Saints loss that went “Sean Payton, Sean Payton, Sean Payton, Expletive, Expletive, Expletive!” Only in New Orleans!
Maybe New Orleans folks are required to celebrate their successes with such high emotion because there are so few bright, shining days in the real life of our city. Take a look at the Metro section of the local wipe and on many days every story on a page is crime-related. Rape, murder, carjacking, robbery, assaults upon unexpected tourists in the French Quarter and more. Incompetence is rampant, reflected by the Sewer & Water Board’s lame excuses why nearly every heavy rain causes major street flooding. The drug trade has created war between street gangs along with the collateral damage of innocent bystanders – often children - being shot and killed. And the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina are still around us in the person of vacant lots where houses once stood or acres of concrete that once housed shopping centers or businesses.
We need our islands of joy where logic is shelved for another opportunity to unleash our emotions. Membership in Who Dat Nation is cheap. The only price is your reaction to the latest Saints game. After a win, you join your neighbors and dance the night away to tunes like “Sean Payton, Sean Payton, Sean Payton, Sean Payton.” After a loss, you sing “Expletive, Expletive, Expletive” while wondering how many more chances Drew Brees will have to win a Super Bowl.
Yes, the NFL could have used the Saints’ personality and its fans’ exuberance to lift this Super Bowl out of the 2017 regular season muck. But that's their problem. Around here, you know things will be okay soon. Mardi Gras is only three weeks away, and Saints players are already lining up to ride in their favorite parades.