And I'd only been there five days before.
But here I was, in an apartment in Harlem, in a room full of black and gold, and jambalaya, with people I'd just met who all shared a common love: A City and a Team that for so long has lived as an underdog, and now, people care.
I've felt it all season. Almost every Tuesday afternoon these past few months, someone has walked up to me and said something like "Congratulations." or "We're so happy for you right now."
Because of a football team. A football team that for 43 years has seen many many downs, and not many ups.
For as long as I can remember "When the Saints go to the Superbowl" has been used in place of a more cliche "When Hell freezes over." We never thought it would happen. We wanted to believe it, and we dug down, and we had faith. Faith people no where else understand. We were that team that the other teams rested their starters against. We were not a team you had to bring your A-game to.
And now, after all this time, our day has come.
We were criticized for spending 200 million dollars to rebuild a stadium when there were thousands of people still homeless.
Ask any of those homeless people in New Orleans four years ago, and each and every one of them would tell you they'd rather have that stadium up and running. We don't function well without our Saints.
And back they came, roaring, with a new team, a new coach, and a new agenda.
Carry the ball for the people.
I remember in 2006 the joy I experienced when we earned a first-round bye. I remember going home for a few weeks at Christmastime, and there was a different air in the city. It felt like a different place. New Orleans no longer felt like the city that care forgot. It felt like a city that had hope. They saw hope in those boys, and their eyes were focused on the road ahead.
I remember winning the divisional playoffs, and realizing in tears that we were, in fact, only one game away from the Superbowl. Letting that sink in was intense.
I remember the pain of losing that Championship game, and being just-shy of the glory that could have been. What I remember most is thinking that the Saints had done just what we always knew they did. Sweet victories wouldn't be as sweet if they were good all the time.
LSU has my heart, and I cannot imagine being more excited and proud on the fourth row at that BCS National Championship game. I screamed and shouted, I pinched myself a few times, but I felt nothing like this. And we all know, I love LSU a wee bit more than my Saints.
But LSU is good most of the time. Or at least decent.
The Saints are a different story altogether. When the Saints are good, it means something. And it gets under your skin. I love those boys. I love how they are a part of the city. I love how they care. I love how they know what it means to us.
I may not live in New Orleans anymore, but New Orleans lives in me. Cheezy as that may sound. I can almost promise you that I will end up back there. I can't seem to keep myself away. I know the Lord has me in New York right now for good reasons, and I am learning so much in turn, but boy do I miss that city. Especially now.
There was a video that nola.com posted of a bar in the quarter where people were watching the game. And watching that last moment, I felt everything I felt Sunday night on Madison Avenue. I felt the tears rush back, and I watched those people in that video scream and shout and cry and pour out into the streets and celebrate. The whole city celebrated, brass bands came out of nowhere and marched down the street like it was Mardi Gras day.
I wanted to be in that number.
|Saints Video: Bourbon Street|