Thread: Around The NFL:
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Old 12-17-2009, 12:39 PM   #1409
Great moments are born...
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...from great opportunity

Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 3,899


Anybody growing up as a kid in Colorado in the mid 70s remembers BroncoMania. It is the reason I am as passionate about this team as I am. Even as a very young kid you understood how special it was. I believe a team can only experience that type of magic once. After that the innocence is gone. Even SB 32 wasn't the same in terms of pure mania.

Living in New Orleans now and having gone through Katrina. This City is experiencing a very similar kind of mania with the Saints. Only different. The Saints are this City and this City is the Saints. Very hard to describe unless you are here.

Read one guys view on it from ESPN. A long read....but if you like football magic, hope, faith and a love affair with a City and a is worth the time.

Saints the soul of America's city

NEW ORLEANS -- The soul of New Orleans is in a trumpet and a low-ceilinged bar. It's in the free red beans in the back. It's in the art hanging near the food that has two dogs howling at a New Orleans Saints moon. It's in the voice of Kermit Ruffins, two hours into his standing Thursday night gig at a packed club hidden in the neighborhood behind the French Quarter, the place weathered and peeling like the side of a workingman's boat.

He plays a song he wrote, "All I Want for Christmas Is the Saints in the Super Bowl," and the crowd dances and sings all the words. When he takes a break, he calls me in closer. There's something he wants to show me. He undoes his thin black tie, and the top two buttons, then pulls both his collared shirt and T-shirt down just enough so I can see. I notice the top point first, and slowly, the entire tattoo comes into view, a month old, enormous, covering his entire chest. I start laughing, and so does he. A symbol of the city adorned with a symbol of the city. Kermit Ruffins has gotten an enormous fleur-de-lis, the Saints' helmet logo, tattooed on his chest.

"Only in New Orleans," he says, winking. "I'm killing 'em when I take off my shirt at the beach. Especially at the Super Bowl."

Hello, madness

These are strange and beautiful days in New Orleans, and they must be seen to be believed. I've visited the city dozens of times since I was a boy, lived and worked there for a spell and last week, when I went down to experience the mania over the Saints' undefeated season firsthand, I found myself not sure whether every street was a dream. Some moments made me laugh, and others were so full of a desperate love that I had tears in my eyes.

Where do you even begin? Maybe you describe the couture shops that have replaced the latest fashions on the storefront mannequins with Saints T-shirts? Maybe you tell how vampire novelist and native New Orleanian Anne Rice, never much of a football fan and now living on the West Coast, recently ordered a Drew Brees jersey with "Anne" on the back. Maybe you use numbers: 84 percent of the televisions in town were tuned to the recent Monday night game against the Patriots. Maybe you use bizarre trends, such as an NOPD cop telling me the 911 calls almost stop when the Saints play and there's been only one murder during a game this year.

I like this best, here, at a Christmas party for children at one of the columned and terraced battleships on tree-lined St. Charles Avenue. Everyone calls the home The Wedding Cake House, and it's owned by a prominent local attorney whose family is close to Rita Benson LeBlanc, the owner and executive vice president of the football franchise. The kids are all crowded around Santa Claus until the arrival of Gumbo, the beloved St. Bernard-costumed mascot of the Saints. The kids flock to Gumbo, and there are screams and hugs and photos and, in the madness, a few of the adults look over to see Santa, totally alone and ignored, trying to figure out what to do.

Eventually, they said, he just left.

These are strange and beautiful days, and there is something being created right now, something that goes well beyond the success of a football team. One night, three of us roll through the streets of downtown New Orleans. LeBlanc is driving her dark Mercedes. In the back seat is the head of the federal government's Gulf Coast Rebuilding team. They are talking about the Saints' perfect season and the things athletic success can realistically mean to a town. We pass reopened hotels and fixed houses, the blue tarps that doubled for roofs for the past four years gone. We pass throngs of tourists who have returned, and local restaurants that are packed, and out there in the night, implicit in everything that is of this place, there is a defiant beating heart.

Yes, there is something happening in New Orleans, a strange and beautiful story not so much about a town that still needs distraction from a hurricane but about a professional sports team changing the nature of the relationship between franchise and fan. "It's the entire city," LeBlanc says as we drive. "Everybody feels it. It's not because we're selling it. Faith or fate, whatever you believe in, you cannot watch this football team and not have faith."

the rest of the long article is here....
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