Monday, February 08, 2010

Justice Is Served: Ain't This Super For Hard-Luck New Orleans?

Justice Is Served

Ain't This Super For Hard-Luck New Orleans?

I had expected to get a call Sunday night from at least one of my good friends. 
Some kind of friends, eh?

You see, I knew they were in New Orleans, hopping from jazz club to jazz club in the French Quarter. They were there, in the heart of Saints country, enjoying the Super Bowl on television; they were hoping, praying and cheering for not just a team but for a city.
For if any city in America deserved to win a Super Bowl, if any city deserved to celebrate living, to turn its attention away from a decade of heartache, disaster and despair, hard-luck New Orleans would be that U.S. city.

The place has had its share of disappointment -- more than its share, actually. Can any big city claim the kind of hardships that had visited this port city in the past decade? The place almost lost what had been its signature: the ability to party like it's 1999.
How do you party in the face of so much despair, though? Is it unholy to look at life in this peculiar Southern city and not mourn its struggles?

So we all mourned it. We all rooted for New Orleans to find some reason -- any reason at all -- for another grand celebration, for another day to wave banners and colorful streamers, for another day to trade hugs and high-fives, for another day to put into mothballs, if only for one night, the misery that had ripped this city at its seams.
The city and its people found that reason Sunday night. They found it on a football field in South Florida, found it through the biggest game in America sports, a Super Bowl their beloved Saints won against a team their Saints weren't expected to beat.
One thing New Orleans has proved, proved through all its missteps, through all the years of rebuilding itself, through all its deaths and through all its political tumult, is that this delta city is resilient.
To outsiders, to people who have never fully understood the New Orleans psyche, Sunday night wasn't supposed to be an occasion for partying. No, the stiff whiskey and Flaming Hurricanes weren't supposed to be flowing like the Mississippi down Bourbon Street; melancholy, however, would.
But if any tears did flow, they were tears of joy. The Saints had gone out and beaten fairly long odds, doing it decisively, too. They outhit, outsmarted and outhustled a Colts team that, the consensus had been, should have had little trouble moving up and down the football field against a suspect Saints defense.
For a while, it looked as if the consensus was right. Not a quarter into the game, the Saints trailed 10-0. Their deficit didn't hold up long.
Displaying the never-say-quit moxie of the city they call home, Drew Brees and the Saints proved more resilient than the dams that almost washed the place off the Rand McNally map. Brees and his teammates kept their Southern cool. They showed the fighter's heart of a world's champion. 
Now, they are talk of the football. They are the Super Bowl champs whose 31-17 win gave this city a reason to smile, a reason to celebrate as if New Year's had come to town five weeks late, a reason to start Mardi Gras a few weeks early.
Here's to Brees, to the Saints and to this down-on-its-luck city! A taste to them all, and a chilled glass of Dom Perignon for everyone who believed in unlikely dreams.
Nobody in the French Quarter can pass this up. Not on a night like this - not in a city like this, a city that needs something to celebrate, anything that can remind the place of what life here was once like: party central, 24/7.
And that's why my friends were in New Orleans. They wanted to enjoy Bourbon Street; they wanted to be rolling through the French Quarter just in case - just in case the Saints, a team that held this city's heart in its hands, pulled off what the consensus said was impossible: winning the Super Bowl.
But the Saints, as if playing Destiny's hand, did win this Super Bowl, and people on Bourbon or Canal or Royal or Chartres were making merry because of it. I saw that on television. The city was holding an impromptu party like only Vegas and Rio can.
New Orleans became the place to be, which was what my friends had been hoping for when they headed to the city. That's why they were in city, drinking and dancing into the night.
I only wish they had taken a New York minute to call and allow me to enjoy their celebration vicariously.  
Yeah, some kind of friends, eh? 
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