Saturday, January 30, 2010

The power of symbols and myth

I know pagans and football fans, strange bedfellows.

But in case you haven't heard the New Orleans Saints are going to the SuperBowl. For the first time in the teams 40+ year history. The dichotomy between the New Orleans world of 4+ years ago and today would have to be measured in light years. Our New Orleans Saints football team has been a symbol of our PostKatrina journey. The arrival of Sean Payton and Drew Brees the year after Katrina and team's journey to the SuperBowl has, for the people of this city, been traveled in lock step with our city's recovery. The football team loves the city. The city loves their football team.
When New Orleanians were spread across the globe and yearning to be home. The Saints didn't have a home either. There was the talk of the team not returning and finding another permanent home in another US city, say San Antonio. But the repair of the Superdome and the teams first game in Home Sweet Dome put that talk to bed.

We've (the Saints and the City) had our ups and downs since then. But these past 4 years have been mostly good. The Saints fans, who attended games with bags on their heads, but attended! even then the team was loosing, pitifully and painfully week after week, year after year have responded in larger and larger number to this years powerful show of drive, hard work and tenacity.

Now we layer on the fact that the SuperBowl and the New Orleans mayoral, city council, assessor and other election IS THE SAME DAY as the SuperBowl. We have a chance to change the things that haven't worked for us these past 4 years and the Saints have another chance to change franchise history. The mythic bonds between the Saints and the City weave more tightly together.

Now with these bonds of mythical portions associated with a city and a team the NFL decides that it is going to try to be the biggest dog and get their lawyers to say that the chant used by New Orleanians to support their team is trademarked and can't be used by small businesses or others. Who Dat! is part of the local lexicon and has been for longer than there has been a Saints football team. But the NFL, in the throws of SuperBowl sales greed, decided that they were going to claim not only a part of the local lexicon but the Fleur di Lis. Seems they forgot about the French Court or the mythic proportions this symbol already has for New Orleanians. New Orleans is a lot of things but the one thing it isn't is like other places or more specifically in this instance like other NFL cities. The NFL had no idea what it was stepping into. Senators & Representatives came out against the NFL. The ever creative Locals started purchasing what they needed to make their own Who Dat paraphernalia. Then there were the endless letters, eMail, phone calls, and blogosphere buzz about how greedy and ogreish the NFL was being. The hose was turned full force on the big dog and it seems they have backed down a little.

And the mythic proportions of the New Orleans Saints Football Team and their fans and the recovering Greater New Orleans and Gulf Coast Area grow larger. Which brings us back to the power of symbols and myth. Pagans love their myths because myths speak to many people many ways. Myths serve to unify and guide us and give us strength in adversity. The Saints and the City and the Recovery are bound together forever. Ours is a story of devastation and loss, of hope and unity, of family of blood and beyond blood, of the power of the people, of tenacity. It's David and Goliath. It's The Little Engine That Could. It's Persephone rising from the underworld. It's the complex story of Lupercus. It's the power of myth and the magic of a little place called New Orleans.

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