Football has returned to the Superdome with the Saints preseason game against the Titans. But this year is different. After 8 years on the waiting list, my newlywed-husband’s season tickets finally came through and we have a new address – a seat, row and section in the Dome. It got me thinking again about why football matters. As they unfurled the giant American flag, I was proud that football is a uniquely American sport. The whole world agrees that “football” is soccer and that soccer is a way better game, but every time I see those helmeted gladiators take the field, I swell with pride and excitement.
I was right to look forward to meeting our new neighbors. People have always been friendly as we floated through the stadium sections but it was nothing compared with the warm reception extended by the other “permanent address” fans around us. A couple behind us had just gotten their tickets as well but most were veterans, including a man who’d been a season ticket holder for 40 years! He’d had his seat since back when the team played in Tulane’s stadium. I can’t imagine what the victorious 2009 season was like for a man who’d watched that much losing for that long.
Though they won, the Saints seemed as undisciplined as we were. Our opening Who Dat chant was a bit of a mess, our defensive noise-making wasn’t loud enough to interrupt play and we mostly sat and “got Crunk.” The always-delightful 610 Stompers halftime show could’ve used an extra practice, but the Saints got penalties on dozens of plays. We can chalk it all up to “preseason,” but the truth is we all need to get a lot more excited about the season ahead. Our schedule is forgiving and our team and their leaders are top-notch. There’s every reason to believe we can make it to the Super Bowl again this year. 2 Dat!
I thought a lot about why football matters when I moved here during that magical 2009 season, just 4 years after the Storm. I watched football heal this city in a way little else could have. I enjoyed rereading some of those old posts and thought you might as well.
Why Football Matters talks about falling back in love with football, how the Saints’ winning season affected the city and the many important ways football affects us across the nation.
Why I Love the Saints (and you could too) is about the Aint’s-to-Saints story of the rag-tag rejects who made up our Super Bowl winning team as well as the Superdome, the owner and more examples of our underdog journey to becoming champions and how it all reflects local values.
Super Bowl NOLA Style is about the year we hosted the Ravens-49’ers Super Bowl. It contextualizes the moment when the lights went out in the Dome while all the world was watching and how far we’d come from the last time a crowd sat in the dark in the Dome during Katrina.
Last year, when I realized they were looking for a a song to replace Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk) after touchdowns in the Dome, I embarked on a fairly exhaustive search for a new touchdown anthem and wrote several blogs featuring the songs I found. Saints Soundtrack and Saints Soundtrack Vol. 2 recount the journey to finding my new favorite anthem, ChadQuentin and Phat Word’s Black & Gold.
Last week , I found a new reason football matters when local musician John “Papa” Gros called me out for the “ice bucket challenge” raising awareness for ALS. Many people who suffer from ALS have never played a day of football but almost everything I know about the disease I learned from Steve Gleason, former kicker for the Saints. His 2006 blocked-punt moment at the first game in the Dome after Katrina symbolized the city’s path to recovery. The moment is immortalized in the “Rebirth” statue outside the Dome.
But Gleason’s greatest heroism comes from his “No White Flags” fight with ALS. Even when it came time for him to answer the ice bucket challenge – he took it up a notch and did it nude. Watching him in his wheelchair taking on this challenge shamelessly, I felt silly worrying about bikini-body stuff and even the thought of the ice water – and took it like.. okay, I squealed like a little girl. But I did it and he’s the reason why. Steve Gleason believes he can be cured and I believe in Steve Gleason. It put me in just the right mood to take on this football season like a true believer.
I believe! Who Dat!?! 2 Dat! Believe Dat!