Who Dat protest turned anger into a celebrationby J.W. Miller on 02/04/19
Only New Orleans can turn abject disappointment into a party. Of course, just about anything that happens in New Orleans is reason enough for a party. Even deaths are celebrated by jazz funerals in which the sorrow of passing is replaced by a celebration of a life well lived. And that’s what happened Sunday when thousands of fans turned off their televisions and descended downtown to protest the game they should have been in.
The impromptu Blackout and Gold parade marchers second-lined at Jackson Square, down Canal and Poydras streets and gathered at Fulton Street in a massive display of anger. And the world noticed, especially after a relatively dull Super Bowl that featured the least points and the most punts in the game’s 53-year history. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay summed it up when he wrote: “I’m half convinced this sleepy Super Bowl was the result of a hex from the good people of New Orleans, still seething that a missed call in the NFC Championship prevented their beloved Saints from being here. This is what the NFL gets, for messing with New Orleans."
The NFL probably could have done something to curb the anger. Commissioner Roger Goodell could have flown to New Orleans a day or two after the game, stood beside Gayle Benson and selected Saints representatives and addressed the fans. He could have explained why he was prevented by NFL rules from interfering, why the league will encourage the Competition Committee to amend the rules and prevent it from happening again. And, oh yes, he could have apologized to the fans. But he didn’t, and every day the infected wound grew more raw and toxic.
Although it may be difficult to reconcile New Orleans’ strong tradition of Catholicism and professed religious faith with its penchant for ribaldry and revelry, Who Dat Nation apparently took a cue from Scripture to get through their grief. Luke 4:23 contains the well-traveled phrase, “Physician, heal thyself.” And that’s what the Who Dats did. They confronted their demons, particularly Goodell, and celebrated one of the greatest seasons in team history.
QB Drew Brees added to the suddenly upbeat mood by proclaiming his team is still within the window of opportunity. Next season it will welcome back its maturing stable of young stars such as Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk and Marcus Davenport along with its solid group of crafty veterans such as Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, Max Unger, Terron Armstead and Brees himself. If Sheldon Rankins recovers from his torn Achilles, they re-sign Mark Ingram and can pick up a wide receiver in free agency or the draft, the table would be set for another run. Indeed, the Westgate Las Vegas morning line today has the Saints, Patriots and Rams at 8-1 behind the Chiefs at 6-1 to win Super Bowl LIV.
Sunday’s fan protest turned into a cathartic celebration that put the travesty of the past two weeks behind them and allows them to look ahead. They won’t soon forget they were cheated and are less likely to forgive it, but another run at a Super Bowl next year would make No Flag Gate far less painful.