Today I watched the New Orleans Saints football game, as I have done several times this fall. This is unusual, even extraordinary, because I am not a sports fan. I know enough about football to follow the game in a general way. (I'm glad there are commentators to clue me in on what I miss). In the past I never watched football games except for special occasions--such as going to a game with a date (long time ago), or being at someone's home for, say, a Superbowl party (pretty rare, since few of my friends are sports fans).
This year, however, the Saints have become a symbol of New Orleans' comeback from disaster. A serendipitous fate has combined a new, exceptionally shrewd and capable head coach (Sean Payton) with a new, talented, and highly intelligent quarterback (Drew Brees), as well as a field of talented players, from the running backs to the offensive tackles and defensive ends, etc. The combination, together with a real determination by the team to do well on behalf of the city, has resulted in the Saints having the best year they've ever had. Even when they lose a game, as they did today (to the Philadelphia Steelers), they play very well and put up a good battle. Not the Saints of yore, indeed.
And why have I started watching? Well, the notion that their progress is linked to the city's progress hooks me in. It's amazing that for the first time in their history, the Saints have sold out all the season tickets. It proves their importance to the populace. Whether their fans know it or not, they root harder for the Saints now because they need to see striving. They need to see achievement. They need to see success. They need to see victory. And, more than anything, they need to feel that the nation is behind New Orleans, just as New Orleans is behind the Saints.
Does my watching the games make a bit of difference to anyone else? No, but it makes a difference to me. I feel vicariously triumphant when the Saints succeed. And, like everyone else down here, I need that feeling.
Go, Saints...Bless You, Boys!