Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Why have I cried so many times about the Saints over the past couple of weeks?
Ever since the Saints beat the Vikings to advance to the Super Bowl, it's been common to see tears from New Orleanians and people who care about New Orleans. I've cried multiple times since then. It's ranged in me and others from simply misty eyes to gentle crying to staggered-breath, sudden-release bawling. For me, it usually only lasts about a minute or two.
It happened to me first in the Superdome, a few minutes after Hartley made his kick. It continued to happen during the following two weeks, when I would hear replays of Jim Henderson's radio description of the winning moment, or when I would see TV or Internet highlights of the kick. Sometimes even just video of fellow Saints fans being emotional would set me off a little. It's continued since the Super Bowl win.
[NOTE: I'm not making this up. It just happened again. It's 5:30 a.m. My dog started barking because the newspaper arrived. I went out to get the paper. I read a subtitle under the Times-Picayune's "Dat Tuesday" headline today: "'We have endured the American nightmare. It's our time to live the American dream.'" Tears again. Cheesh.]
Why? How? How can the play of a football team cause such an emotional response? I just wanted to reflect a little on the outburst of tears in New Orleans over the past couple of weeks.
1. All those years of basic sports fan emotionalism. It's a release, the kind of release that a sports fan might have after many years of hope and frustration. Did the same kind of thing happen in Boston in 2004--grown men and women of all ages crying after the Red Sox beat the Yankees and then won the World Series in 2004?
My first Saints game was at Tulane Stadium when I was 8 years old or so. I think it was against the Redskins, and the Saints lost. My dad didn't really want to take me--he preferred playing sports to watching sports--but I think my mom prevailed upon him to do so. I appreciate that he endured a hot, sunny day in that stadium watching a bad team lose. That day was part of the process that hooked me, and I was hooked not on the football, but on the people there and the smells of the stadium and the spectacle of the colors.
I moved overseas a couple of years later, and the distance only increased my love for the Saints. My grandmother would mail entire T-P Sports sections to us, and I would devour them even though it took 10 days or more to reach us.
In high school, I would buy my own tickets for a couple of games per year, and I would take the ferry from the Westbank and walk up Canal Street to get to the Superdome. More love, more losses.
My love for the Saints--and what I was willing to do for that love and as a result of that love--has caused many arguments in my marriage. That's a lot of stress for my poor spouse, but also for me.
So maybe the tears are a release of all of those times. So many varied emotions over the years. So much time and money spent. So much time questioning deeply why the hell I have this near-obsession, when I could be doing more productive things for my family and society.
2. The loved ones who aren't here to see this with us. I know this has been heavy with me, and other people have talked about it too. The Times-Picayune even did a story about it. We remember the people who suffered with us through bad seasons and near-misses and ridiculous referee calls. For me, it's Ashley Morris and Brian Bordelon. It's my Nana, who pretended to scoff at the Saints and would make fun of my brothers and me for even being interested. Underneath, though, I knew it made her happy, and I know she would be dancing her funny little sway right now. That makes me cry.
How could one not cry about this stuff? Ashley Morris was our Moses, the guy who helped us ALMOST get to the Promised Land. However, the Infinite--who/which always retains a sense of humor--had to take Ash away before the Saints could do it for us. I'm glad Dr. Morris got to glimpse Drew Brees and the gang in the NFC Championship loss to the Bears, but I cried with Hana and shared big hugs with her after the win over the Vikes and the Super Bowl win over the Colts.
My tears disappear when I think that Ashley and Brian and Buddy D. and so many others helped push the Saints through this year.
3. A deeper release after what's happened in New Orleans since August 29, 2005. Scenes from New Orleans have been making people all over the world cry for the past four and a half years. This could be part of that continuum, except that this time it's tears of release and joy after so many months of hurt and desolation. I really do have a feeling of hope right now, and I guess others share that.
And there's this, too: I spent many months being angry about governmental failure and the people who bashed New Orleans and wanted to give up on us; I was also relentlessly angry about people who ditched New Orleans, such as the people who run Ruth's Chris. These days, all I'm thinking about are the thousands of volunteers who have come here to help and the millions of people around the U.S. and world who were cheering for the Saints BECAUSE THEY ARE FROM NEW ORLEANS. I'm also thinking about Paul Tagliabue, who made sure the Saints stayed in New Orleans even though things looked bleak in 2005 and early 2006. That all gives me strength. That causes me some tears, but it also makes them go away quickly.
There may be more to say about this, but this is my first stab. And that's what a blog is for, yes?