By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Admittedly, the “bleachers” from where I typically provide my “views” are often no more exotic a location than my couch. This week though my derriere graced the cold metal seats of an actual stadium and I witnessed a live sporting event for the first time in years (look, I have two young kids…I don’t get out much). When I received the gracious offer to join my cousin and fellow domestic superman at FedEx Field, the first Skins game I’ve attended since the Spurrier era (or was it a circus?), my immediate curiosity was assessing the state of ‘Skins nation. My beloved team has been in something of an organizational meltdown this season and just a few weeks ago the fan base seemed poised to bum rush ‘Skins headquarters to claim a pound of flesh and overthrow the current regime. What I found though was a calmer, gentler crowd; a fan base apparently accepting of another lost season and one pleased with the team’s recent improvement. And interestingly enough, on the way to the game, I passed a number of cars whose inhabitants were, judging from the burgundy and gold garb, headed to the same place I was (don’t worry, I wasn’t speeding…it was “research”). It was nice to see that fan support from Southern Maryland was exactly as I remembered it.
Secondary to catching a ‘Skins game and getting a few precious hours to decompress from the domestic grind with an old friend, I was looking forward to watching the ‘Skins opponent that day: the undefeated New Orleans Saints. The Saints appear to be having one of those magic carpet ride type of seasons. Offensively they’re something of a football version of a pinball machine. Behind maestro QB Drew Brees, they average 36 points/game in a wildly entertaining and flawlessly orchestrated offensive symphony. But…coming off a huge win over the Patriots the prior Monday night and facing a nondescript opponent in the then 3-8 ‘Skins, the Saints were understandably sluggish. Meanwhile, the home team played well and had nothing short of an out of body experience offensively. Despite leading nearly wire-to-wire, the ‘Skins eventually lost 33-30, in overtime, after a series of bizarre events that included a missed chip shot field (by a kicker who is now contributing to the nation’s unemployment rate), a dubious replay reversal and a Saints wide receiver scoring a touchdown after he stole the ball from a ‘Skins defensive back who seconds earlier had intercepted a Brees pass. For ‘Skins fans it was insult to injury and enough bad karma to enrage even the most emotionally detached fan. Surprisingly though, I was not only far from enraged, I wasn’t the least bit agitated.
After witnessing the Saints win with a combination of timely big plays and ridiculous good fortune, one had to wonder if something bigger was in play. Goodness knows the ‘Skins have had seasons like this; seasons where you get the calls, the bounces and the injury bug rarely bites. Don’t get me wrong, the Saints are good – certainly far superior to the ‘Skins – but there’s just a special vibe around this group of canonized football players. And you know what, good for them and their fans because no city deserves it more. New Orleans has known a hell on earth few of us have or ever will. Katrina brought this cultural gem of a city to her knees. While she’s gotten back to her feet, she isn’t yet standing as erect or as proud as she once did. If a run by the Saints to the Superbowl serves to swell civic pride, remind us all of the work left to do there and ease life ever so slightly in The Big Easy, well that’s something we can all root for. Four years ago the Saints’ home, the Superdome, was a hurricane-scarred building serving as a shelter for displaced residents. This January it could host the NFC Championship game and catapult the Saints to the Superbowl. I sure hope it does. This year, with no apologies to the Cowboys, the Saints are America’s team.
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