Although it may have taken them 43 years, too many heart-aches to count properly, and one absolutely devastating semi-”the-man”-made natural disaster …
As Leigh, a friend and blogger from New Orleans, said to me,
“The energy in this entire town is incredible. People here have been ready for this for decades…but the way the media is treating the Saints as underdogs isn’t a surprise to any of us. The people of New Orleans have been subjected to those attitudes for a long time ourselves, and we still are in too, too many ways, but we’re still here. And those who are still unable to return here due to the displacement caused by the storm, or the recession, or other circumstances – they’ll return in one way or another, because this is a town that can teach the rest of this country how to live. It always has, and it always will, despite it all.”
Leigh’s pride runs across NOLA tonight. The same week that Education Secretary Arne Duncan outrageously called Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”, the city has delivered a counterpunch to Duncan as well as any and all doubters. Their ascendancy means that the arduous post Hurricane recovery work has gotten more publicity in the last two weeks than it’s received in the last two years. This is maddening but many New Orleans residents wouldn’t have it any other way. As Saints linebacker Scott Fujita’s wife Jaclyn said, “The people of New Orleans love the Saints not because they provide a distraction from their fall but because they are a reflection of their rise.”
Whether you believe that or not, the proof is in the very vibe of the city. The French Quarter is hopping tonight. The Ninth Ward is hopping tonight. Algiers is hopping tonight. People in New Orleans are feeling damn good right now, and to scoff at that is to scoff at the very resiliency that makes us human. Community activist and former Black Panther Malik Rahim who has lived in the city for three decades and still works in Algiers, told me, “I haven’t seen people this happy since Katrina. No question about it.” That doesn’t mean all – or even some – questions about the future of New Orleans are solved by a Saints Super Bowl win. Jobs, housing, and the right of return for displaced residents still need to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
But it does mean that folks of the Big Easy are feeling fearless tonight. Every last person – from Bush to Brownie – that wrote this city off has to now bend down and kiss the ring. President Barack Obama, who often seems allergic to saying the words “New Orleans” must now greet the team at the White House and acknowledge both the Saints and the city that bears their name. Even if tomorrow is unbearably hard, we have today. And today feels mighty fine.
In case you might not know of him, just yet, Dave Zirin [Edge of Sports] is one of the finest sports writers in America today.
… and, Jim Caldwell is one of the finest sportsmen these eyes have yet to see.
“Our head is bloodied, but unbowed.”