They’ve been called a lot of things in 43 years. Everything from the ‘Aints to the Bless You Boys. Today, they’re being called something for the first time.
Two weeks ago, I blogged about the New Orleans Saints bringing home the first NFC Championship in franchise history, and while we all had hopes for the Super Bowl, I was the sort to not really voice them for fear of jinxing the whole thing. But a lot of other people were a lot more vocal than I was, and yesterday, Drew Brees and the boys took it all home for a city that has totally fallen in love with them.
Perhaps best of all is the fact that it was truly a clean win. No controversial calls, no questionable flags, nothing that the armchair pundits can point at and try to claim that the refs screwed up or cheated or did anything to “take” the trophy away from Manning and the Colts. It wasn’t taken from them. It was earned by the Saints, through a series of good play calling, fundamental excellence, and — let’s be honest here — some of the gutsiest moves I have ever seen in a football game. Just seconds into the second half, when a surprise onside kick left the Colts (and the rest of the world) stunned, someone at our Super Bowl party screamed, “You can DO THAT on a kickoff?”
I’m not ashamed to admit, that was me.
Tomorrow the city of New Orleans is throwing a victory parade for our boys, with floats donated by the five biggest Mardi Gras Krewes who are going to use them again next weekend. My sister Heather (who was at the game, damn her) is in Disney World right now watching a parade in Brees’ honor, while over 20,000 Saints fans are swarming Louis Armstrong International Airport to watch the rest of the team get off the plane back home.
That’s not a typo. Over TWENTY. THOUSAND.
When I finally went to bed at 1 a.m., the TV news was still showing the party on Bourbon Street. And when I woke up at 5 a.m. to go to work, there were still people out there. Many of the revelers, no doubt, walked down the road to camp out for a spot at the parade. Half the city didn’t come in to work today, including a lot of teachers at my school. But that was okay. Out of my 80 students, I had 28 absent.
Tomorrow the work begins. Not necessarily for the Saints — they deserve a long break — but for the rest of us. For the past week, the eyes of the world have been on New Orleans. Governor Bobby Jindal said during an interview last night that the assembled media of the world have been given packets outlining the positive things that have been happening in Louisiana. This is our chance to convince people to come here — not just with their tourist dollars, but with their businesses. With their jobs. This is a chance to make a quantum leap in the progress we’ve been making ever since that bitch of a storm a few years ago.
But that’s on us. Our boys got us there. So thank you, Sean Peyton, Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Garrett Hartley, and all the rest. Thank you for putting yourselves — and us — in the spotlight. And don’t even think about next year yet. Enjoy this moment until the time comes to really think about it. Don’t worry about tomorrow yet. Don’t worry about the free agency and the draft, spring training or the pre-season. Don’t worry about 16 more games that count and don’t even think about 45. For now, 44 is all ours, and nobody will ever take that away from us. For the next few months, just just celebrate the fact that you’ve done something no other Saints team in history has done.
For the next few months, just celebrate.
And leave the hard work to all of us.