Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fairy Tales & Magic

Perhaps you're tired of hearing me talk about the symbolic and mythical proportions of a football team and its season. But

Here in New Orleans a political pundit has used Fairy tales to describe our 5 year journey from PreKatrina to PostSuperBowl.

And Sports Writers talk of Magic.

Given the folks talking are older males, I'd say myth and symbology still has a place in how we humans relate to the world.

New Orleans enjoys fairy-tale endings: James Gill
By James Gill
February 10, 2010, 6:24AM

Once upon a time, there was a town where gingerbread houses lined the streets and men could become king for a day, although not everyone believed it was real.

Even those who kinda liked the place figured time had passed it by. And bad things kept happening there.

After a big flood killed many of the inhabitants and drove many more away, the ones who remained seemed to have fallen under some malign influence. Nothing else could explain their bizarre behavior and affections.

They passed up opportunities to get rid of their burgomeister, who was plainly pixilated, or their man on Capitol Hill, who was just as plainly crooked.

They didn't care because they were consumed with more important matters. Their biggest fear was that the town's football team would move away. When the owner hankered for a distant land where the stars at night are big and bright, gloom would descend on the old town by the river.

Outsiders could not understand why, because the team had been letting everyone down for decades. It was not as though the team were ever going to win the biggest game of the season, for crying out loud.

Wipe the town off the map, the cry went up. Only idiots would live at such a low elevation in a hurricane zone. Besides, all the aid sent their way gets stolen. T
hey party all the time, shoot one another in the street and half of them can't read.
The calumnies multiplied. It seemed we'd need a bigger miracle than Cinderella to get out of this jam, but fortune began to smile at last.

The crook -- Dollar Bill they called him -- came up for election again and this time he lost, although maybe the inhabitants of the funny old town didn't deserve much credit for that. A new system was in place and a lot of people were so confused they didn't show up for the last round. No matter. It made no difference in the long run because old Bill soon got sentenced to prison.

No magic was required to persuade Tom Benson to abandon plans to move his team. Benson was no more saintly than any cut-throat businessman, but he got such a good deal that he discovered a deep and abiding affection for the old town.

Suddenly the Saints demonstrated that nice guys -- and they brought in lots of guys who really helped with the recovery of the old town -- could play football too.

The curse had not been lifted yet. The goofy mayor was on the way out, but he was working on a legacy of racial strife and urging citizens to keep resentment in their hearts as they went to the polls to choose his successor.

But the town was by now weary of Ray Nagin and decided the only question was who was qualified to run the town he had brought so low. The election went off without rancor at the first go, so that there were no distractions from the big game the next day.

There was no more talk of letting the town die. If football heroes could grow so dedicated to it, the world could see the old place couldn't be a dead loss after all.

Suddenly, millions wanted the town to win the big one and sat glued to their TVs.
But they don't go for Cinderella stories in Vegas, and the experts said the old town was in for a disappointment. They got that wrong and the hooting and a hollering and hugging of strangers went on in the streets for hours.

When the players got back home, they put on a parade. And, even in its darkest days, everyone agreed that the old town could organize a parade like nowhere else.

They all lived happily ever after, except for the town lawman Mr. Letten, who completely ran out of crooked officials to put in jail.

Right. It's a fairy tale.

James Gill is a columnist for The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at jgill@timespicayune.com or at 504.826.3318.

The New Orleans Saints season was "magical"
By Peter Finney, Times-Picayune
February 09, 2010, 10:28AM

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- On the morning after, having saluted the winning coach Sean Payton and MVP of Super Bowl XLIV Drew Brees, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still was shaking his head after leaving the media center.

"You think of the story and all you do is keep coming back to the word 'magical,' " he said Monday.

All week long, it was a story told -- over and over -- how this championship was more than just a football game, how the New Orleans Saints were more than just a football team, how the success of the Saints demonstrated the "value of sports," not only to a city, but to a region.

The "magic" was the most widely watched Super Bowl, attracting in the range of 106.5 million viewers.

As the party continued -- non-stop -- in the Crescent City, Drew Brees was on his way to New York for a Monday night appearance on the "Late Show with Dave Letterman."

Sean Payton, who spent Sunday night sleeping with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after New Orleans defeated the Colts 31-17, was preparing to join his players for a parade in New Orleans today.

And that was only the beginning.

On Saturday, Tom Benson will be the Grand Marshal of Endymion.

On Sunday, Brees will reign as Bacchus.

On Monday -- Mardi Gras Eve -- Payton will go from head coach to Orpheus.

Next Tuesday, for the first time, the city will be celebrating Mardi Gras II, March Gras I having begun sometime in September, when the Who Dat Nation began serious marching to Roman Numerals XLIV.

Let me be honest.

I still have a hard time believing what I'm experiencing.

On Sunday, I arrive in the press box at Sun Life Stadium, I look down at the end zone painted black and gold, I see the letters S-A-I-N-T-S, and I'm asking myself, "is this for real?"

Then you watch a football game, having witnessed some hard-to-believe magic two weeks earlier, and, sure enough, there was more.

First you see some Peyton Manning magic, an 10-0 deficit for the Saints, and then you see some Who Dat magic: an unbelievable gamble at the start of the second half ("I wasn't worried, I was terrified," said Tom Morstead about executing a knuckleball onside kick).

There was more magic, of course.

Brees completed his last 10 passes, something exceeded in a Super Bowl only by Joe Montana. He also completed passes to seven receivers on a single drive, something no quarterback has done -- and he did it on the winning drive. Tracy Porter's game-clinching interception of a Manning pass was magic at its finest.

Think about it.

This season, Payton's Who Dats beat five teams with quarterbacks who won Super Bowls -- the Giants, Patriots, Cardinals, Vikings and Colts.

Now the Who Dats have one.

You look at Brees, and you realize, among the impressive attributes he has, one is the manner in which handles celebrity.

He mixes a warrior mentality with a genuine modesty that sets him apart from many in the business operating at the elite level.

During the week, he told the story of a phone call he once received from Manning when the Colts' quarterback was in the early stages of his NFL career -- and Brees had won a big game at Purdue.

"Peyton had already done some great things as a professional," Brees said. "He had established himself. I felt honored by the call from someone like him."

Brees meant what he was saying. From his high school days, a 6-foot quarterback had been one of the game's classic overachievers, clearing one hurdle after another, a journey that included major surgery on his throwing shoulder.

Once more Sunday, he proved to the world, at age 31, he has the credentials of a legend whose impact now carries far beyond someone who throws touchdown passes.

Drew Brees believes in destiny.

He has made all Who Dats believe in magic.

. . . . . . .

Peter Finney can be reached at 504.826.3405.

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