February 7, 2010 in Sports

We need dem Saints

Bill Plaschke Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Drew Brees has directed the most successful run in the Saints’ often-miserable history.
(Full-size photo)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – One helmet is an ancient symbol of rebirth, an eternal emblem of hope.

The other helmet is footwear for a horse.

America needs the New Orleans Saints to win the Super Bowl.

One team’s history can be found in a museum featuring paper bags once worn by embarrassed fans and tear-stained tissues used by happily weeping fans.

The other team’s history can be found in a Mayflower moving truck.

America needs the New Orleans Saints to win the Super Bowl.

There is no cheering in the press box, but that rule doesn’t apply to the sport section, and so allow me a few moments to lead America in a chant that nobody really understands for a team that has absolutely no chance in a place that has taken them more than four decades to find.

Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?

In today’s 44th Super Bowl, everything says the Indianapolis Colts. Statistics say the Colts. Rosters say the Colts. History says the Colts.

But I’m rooting like crazy for the other guys because America has rarely needed a sports champion the way it needs the Saints.

As our country lurches and heaves through the ankle-deep sand of its economic recovery, it has not helped the national psyche that every time we turn to our national pastimes for assurances that the little guy can still survive, we run smack into Goliath.

The New York Yankees won the World Series. Gee, that was fun. The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship. Loved in L.A., hated everywhere else.

North Carolina won the Final Four. Bear Bryant’s old team won the Bowl Championship Series. Jimmie Johnson won his fourth consecutive NASCAR championship. The Connecticut women’s basketball team has won 61 consecutive games.

And now Peyton Manning is getting ready to win another Super Bowl?

No thanks. Not now. Please. America needs to believe in the impossible again. America needs another dose of revival.

America needs to believe that 43 years of hard work, even filled with more bad days than good, can still amount for something. America needs to believe that such work on the sporting field can still ease the pain of real life.

The plight of the Saints and their hurricane-ravaged city are as intertwined as dirty rice and beans. If only for a moment tonight, America will be a happier place if both are sharing a last laugh.

The Colts played in the Super Bowl in South Florida only three years ago – same stadium, same hotel, same practice field, demolished the Chicago Bears.

Not only have the Saints never been here, but a major sports team from New Orleans hasn’t competed for a title since the Buccaneers played the Pittsburgh Pipers in the 1968 American Basketball Association finals.

“There’s no other organization or city that deserves a championship more than the New Orleans Saints,” their quarterback Drew Brees said.

In recent weeks, the Midwestern Mayberry Colts have held perfectly decent pep rallies in the warmth of their covered stadium and local shopping malls.

Last week, thousands of male Saints fans rallied by marching through the chilly French Quarter dressed in drag.

The Colts owner, Jim Irsay, is a former body builder still living down the reputation of his late father Bob, who moved the team to Indianapolis from Baltimore in the middle of the night in 1984.

The Saints owner, Tom Benson, 82, is a round and rollicking man who still celebrates some wins by pulling out an umbrella and prancing along the sidelines as if leading a Mardi Gras parade.

Manning, the Colts quarterback, is a perfectly sculpted living legend who gestures and shouts plays from the line of scrimmage as if handing them down from Mount Olympus.

Brees, the Saints quarterback, is a tiny guy with a noticeable birthmark on his face who gives writhing pregame pep talks taken from Marine chants at Guantanamo Bay.

If you don’t live in greater Indianapolis, how can you not cheer for the Saints?

“We have an opportunity to give them so much hope, lift their spirits and give them something they deserve,” Brees said.

He was talking about the people of the New Orleans. He could have been talking about all of us.


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