I was never an organized spectator sports enthusiast, nor was I ever a team oriented, rock-‘em-sock-‘em active player of competitive sports. Once when I was pressured/enlisted to join a team, I asked that my position be named “left out”. The idea of swatting a vaguely spheroid inanimate object with a bat, club, racquet or my tender hands, is as foreign to me as getting into a roped enclosure with someone bigger (and tougher) than I whose sole purpose in life is to beat me like a red-headed stepchild and be rewarded by having his hand raised in victory to the sound of cheers from a bloodthirsty audience who’ve paid money to watch this occur. Ouch!
As a caveat: I’m aware that it takes great skill, talent and training to run that ball against the likes of that herd of buffalo-sized men on an open field, or hit a ball coming at you at a hundred miles an hour and run in a circle hoping to eventually cross “home plate”. I know that I’d never be able to take a nine iron, or whatever, and slice that egg-size ball into a hole 300 yards away, or face Serena across a net as she runs me like a bad comedian dodging tomatoes from a hostile crowd. I can swim, run and bike, but not in competition. For me the emphasis on sports is in the playing…play-ing…get it?
Also, I don’t have a head for statistics, historic significances, odds in favor (or against), theories, rules of the games, point spreads, names, dates or places. Who did what, when, how and against what opponent does not adhere to any of my gray cells. And while this is second nature to some folks, it seems that my brainpan has sports Teflon surfaces. Even in the Olympics, my attention is captured more by figure skating, gymnastics and high diving competitions than on football, golf or hockey. I guess I should turn in my Man Card.
That being said, I am a rabid Saints fan. They’re my team, my boys, my dogs, my troops. Although I’m not sure why they keep getting rid of some of the most beloved players and hiring strangers for us to get to know and love (or not), they’re still a team I’ll get up, dress up, show up and never give up on. Black and Gold symbolize my city and her recovery and ongoing challenges. I just hope that they don’t start drafting any hipsters with man buns.
In the aftermath of Katrina, I was at a talk given by Alec Baldwin. At the time, the city was a mess of trash, homelessness, chaos, confusion and militant optimism about the balls that it was going to take to get us off our backs and on our feet. The talk was given in one of the dining rooms of Muriel’s Jackson Square and thus spoke Alec: “You know, New Orleans is like your home team, and just because your home team gets their asses kicked, you don’t switch teams! It’s your team, you belong to it and it belongs to you, and New Orleans is going to get through this because her people will not, cannot give up on her.” He said a lot of other things too, but those are the words that stuck with me. At one time, our football team was being called “The Aints” and fans were wearing bags on their heads because the team was so terribly bad at the game, and that’s when I fell in love with them. I watch them play good and bad and cheer them on (loudly); I learned what “fourth down and 110 to go” means because that’s what our city came back from. It has been a real “Hail Mary” of a recovery, hasn’t it? And we’re still in overtime.
Liuzza’s By The Track on N. Lopez is my home team when I consider bacon, beer, BBQ shrimp po-boys and game time banter. Liuzza’s stays open for Saints games whenever and wherever they may be. If they’re on Sunday (when the kitchen is closed), patrons bring pot luck and their staff works their usual day off out of solidarity with the neighborhood and “Our Boys”. That’s the New Orleans that I know.
As I said, for the upcoming competitive sports season, I know diddly-squat about such things, and previous to my Saints fever and fervor, I would have suggested that we give each team their own ball and have them stop fighting over just the one, but times have changed. I still don’t know the difference between a punt and a bunt, a tight end and a wide receiver (sounds rather earthy to me), or why some grown people get paid gazillions of dollars to run, jump, kick, punch, swat, slam and run in circles wearing themselves out, getting hurt, and trying to hurt opponents that are trying to hurt them and others get hurt for little or no money at all. As they say, “it’s beyond my ken”. However, put me on a level playing field with you, me and a football pool, and I’ll give you odds that I have just as much chance of winning as you do, with no previous experience necessary.
So, go on with your bad self and root, cheer, whistle, clap, stomp your feet and yell your lungs sore. Of course the referee is blind and probably biased against your team (he’s probably being paid off). They (the other team) STOLE that victory, gosh darn it! We still have a chance at the playoffs, semi-finals or wild card matches…our team rocks! We have a mascot, a great coach, hot dogs, beer and a pretty lady in a black and gold sundress screaming “Stomp the bastard! Kill him!” I rest my case.