The media has kept it surprisingly low-key this week, but come Sunday there will be no avoiding the big dark shadow that looms over New Orleans and the rag tag group of football misfits holding that city together: Katrina.
It has been four years and four months (if you don't count January) since The Hurricane struck New Orleans, breaking the levees, flooding the streets, and turning the Superdome into a hellacious pit of misery and despair. It was even worse than when the Saints played football there. The players were forced to flee the city along with 100,000 residents who never came back. That really sucked.
The city very nearly lost that football team too, but then San Diego fell in love with Philip Rivers and the Miami Dolphins decided Daunte Culpepper was the safe, healthy option and the little orphan team ended up with the little orphan quarterback that no one wanted. Then the ugly coach with no friends (who was secretly smarter than them all) took the job no one wanted and the two of them fashioned bricks out of pigskin and held that town together with nothing but crawdads and athletic tape. Then things sucked a little bit less.
On Saturday, the voters will put away one unfortunate symbol from that terrible time and a day later the Saints could undo the rest. Except for the murder rate. And the corruption. And those levees still aren't really fixed. And Brad and Angelina are probably done for, too. But a win would still feel pretty good, wouldn't it?
The safe money may be on the Colts—with their fancy dry-cleaned uniforms and their slick, bloodless signal caller who will never know what it feels like to be unloved—but the Saints belong to America now. The most pathetic town in this whole pathetic country has a winning football team, and gosh darn it, wouldn't it be swell if we all had something to be happy about for five lousy minutes. Remember when you used to be able to cheer for something and not feel like a schumck? If Peyton Manning wants to go out there and stomp on that dream well, bless his heart, he doesn't mean to, but that's the way it is sometimes. Eh, it's probably better that way. If the Saints actually won the dang thing, then there wouldn't be a reason for them to keep rebuilding the place.
It was a nice dream, though, wasn't it? You can almost see it now....
Saints will be America's team Sunday [McClatchy]
Underdog Saints Get More Fans' Super Bowl Support, Poll Finds [Bloomberg]
Super Bowl Saints inspire revived New Orleans [CNN]
New Orleans Journal - Bursting Pride in Super Bowl Team Replenishes a City [NY Times]