‘The spirits intercede for the Saints’

Christopher Hook

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.” That was my mom, screaming, as Tracy Porter of the New Orleans Saints picked off Peyton Manning and ran back 74 yards to give his team a 14-point advantage with three minutes left in Sunday’s Super Bowl. She has never been a sports fan, for the simple reason that she hates that someone has to lose. I remember her watching with tears in her eyes as the Indians defeated the Yankees in the 2007 playoffs; while my dad and I were hooting and hollering and dancing all around the house, she was stuck on the couch, crying over the Yankees.

Maybe it’s because she knew what it felt like to lose. You see, my mom spent her high school and college years in New Orleans. She watched the Saints go 35-91 from 1971-81. She was around for the “bag heads,” fans who wore sacks on their heads to protest lackluster playing. Her beloved Saints have been, for most of her lifetime, the “Ain’ts.”

As anyone from “Nawlins” will tell you, once you’re from the city, you never want to leave. For my mom, it was particularly hard for her to uproot and move to the cold Northeast, leaving family and tradition, and Mardi Gras and jazz music, and po’ boys and jambalaya, behind.

It was especially difficult for her to be in Kent during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. My mother sat glued to the television, unable to take her eyes away from the horrific pictures of her city under water. She was in constant contact with her two sisters, who luckily had managed to flee the city before the storm struck.

Katrina stands out it everyone’s minds by the sheer disaster of it all, the immense loss of life in the Lower Ninth Ward, the sick and starving people in the Superdome. New Orleanians felt abandoned, both by government and by God.

But the Crescent City is eternally full of survivors. The spirit of those who live in New Orleans, embodied in the phrase “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” or “Let the good times roll,” would not let its battered city succumb to despair. Mardi Gras went on as planned the following year. Building crews began to repair homes, businesses, roads and bridges. And in September of 2006, the Superdome, for those terrifying days in August, was a symbol of humanitarian disaster, reopened for football.

It is hard to estimate how much a sports franchise means to its city. But to my mom, and to the rest of “Who Dat Nation,” the Saints in the Super Bowl meant a great deal. That’s why my mom held our hands during every play, or if someone wasn’t there to hold, she, ever superstitious, “crossed and double-crossed” her fingers, arms, legs, toes, even on inconsequential second-and-four plays. She, wearing several Mardi Gras beads and a Saints shirt, publicly cursed Manning, drawing wide-eyed looks from my twelve-year-old brother, jumped up and down at every Saints first down, and called her also enthusiastic sisters at every commercial break. My mom represented that night everything that is New Orleans: energy, emotion, mania.

And when the final knee was taken, it was apparent what had happened. A football team could revive a city from the ashes of Katrina. And that it could revive a people, including my mom the non-sports fan who sat on the floor sobbing, was nothing short of a miracle. Maybe last Sunday, it was true what the Bible says in Romans 8:27, “… the spirit intercedes for the Saints.”

Christopher Hook is a junior international relations and French major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].