Game Day

Here's New Orleans native and Philadelphia Daily News sports writer Bernard Fernandez on the subject of what's at stake in tonight's NFL playoff game between the Saints and the Eagles:

I am here to chronicle Saturday's NFC divisional playoff matchup of the Eagles and New Orleans Saints, in the refurbished Superdome, but I know, better than do my colleagues who will join me, that this game is about so much more than which team takes another step toward Super Bowl XLI. It is about hope and survival, and humanity's refusal to be beaten into submission. …

SaintsThis no longer is the city I know. Let the good times roll? Many residents are angry, so much so that even their NFL team's surprising participation in the postseason can't totally camouflage their frustration. Volunteers for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity painstakingly gut and repair houses one by one, but billions of dollars in federal aid remain held up as politicians argue over how all that relief money should be spent. Insurance companies have canceled policies en masse; there still is no definitive plan on how to rebuild the levees to a Katrina-resistant level; and thousands of front lawns are dotted by FEMA trailers as the homes behind them remain in disarray and unoccupied. Each and every playground once operated by the New Orleans Recreation Department has become a trailer park, the green spaces once occupied by ball-playing children covered by the ugly, white cylinders reflective of a society in transition. …

Why weren't precious few city and state resources funneled into rebuilding houses instead of a sports palace? Weren't priorities skewed? Is winning a few football games so important when viewed against the backdrop of the ruined 9th Ward?

What those critics don't realize is that the Saints are a key component of the economic engine that powers New Orleans. There must be something to build upon, a reason for the stragglers to return, a promise of normalcy and better things.

Winning a game — even a playoff game — may not seem like a priority for the rebirth of a city if you're going by something like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But yet I think, for the city of New Orleans, it feels like a priority.

Having said all that, it's still a football game, and so rooting for the Saints against my own hometown team is not an option. But let's just say that if the Eagles lose tonight I will do something I've never done before when my team loses: I'll keep the TV on to watch as the other team — and their fans and their city — celebrates.

Update: Great game. Now I guess I root for the Seahawks to beat the Bears so New Orleans gets another home game next week. (Wonder what kind of fines Fox will end up paying for this?)

  • Jeff

    What those critics don’t realize is that the [team] are a key component of the economic engine that powers [city].
    I’ll just say that this once might be a special example, but I’ve heard this before and find it a load of self-serving hooey.

  • Steve

    Well, Saints win. Good for them. Another dilemma for many people where I live (Harrisburg, PA) is that it is Eagles country (also Steelers country and to a lesser extent Ravens country…within a couple hours of all these cities). BUT, Saints wunderkind/feel-good-story rookie Marques Colsten is from Harrisburg.

  • Steve

    Quick question Fred: Why the hell did they punt on 4th and 15 with less than two minutes to go! Huh?!?

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Jeff, do you have any idea how much money comes into that city via football?
    New Orleans’s economy hugely depends on tourism. Things like Saints wins and Mardi Gras aren’t just a morale boost for the city–they’re a vital part of how the town stays alive financially.
    Also, I am a happy little squealing fangirl watching her home team advance to the Conference Championship for the very first time ever. I can only imagine the celebration in the city tonight {{homesick!}}. New Orleanians need something to celebrate. This’ll do nicely.

  • R. Mildred

    they’re a vital part of how the town stays alive financially.
    NO also happens to be one of the biggest ports in the country.
    The people in charge have forgotten that it’s supposed to be Circuses AND bread I guess.

  • the opoponax

    yes, but ports and tourism are all it has.
    contrast that with another city with one of the biggest ports in the country, NYC/New Jersey, which also has fingers in about a zillion other pies.
    just a port and a little bit of oil runoff are not going to keep New Orleans afloat. i’d argue that Superbowl hosting and the Sugarbowl probably bring more money into the city than a mere playoff bid, but playoff homegames can’t hurt. they also help keep the Saints in New Orleans, which is a constant stream of money during football season (which is tourism’s low season there).
    and honestly, couldn’t New Orleans use a few damn circuses?

  • Mnemosyne

    I’ll just say that this once might be a special example, but I’ve heard this before and find it a load of self-serving hooey.
    If I can annoy people on both sides: it’s partially true. A sports team does generate a pretty huge amount of revenue for a city through taxes, fees, etc., but never as much as the owners of the team claim it will as their rationale for getting gigantic tax breaks and other favors from the city or county. Which is why we still don’t have a pro football team in Los Angeles: after having teams move away twice after being given huge concessions, the city refuses to kowtow to the NFL owners and insists that any team that wants to come here needs to finance the move themselves

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    The opoponax is wise in these matters.
    Apropos of the previous Saints V. Eagles post, New Orleans author Poppy Z. Brite opines about the recent Saints win.
    I propose that, should the Saints advance to the Superbowl, all the men attending should show up in a dress. Because that would be funny.
    (I had this mad urge to hop an Amtrak to Chicago for this weekends game–but while train travel is affordable, ticket prices for the game are looking out of my budget. *Sigh*)

  • the opoponax

    wow. i’d been reading Poppy’s blog for a while before Katrina, and then i trailed off for my own reasons. i knew she and her husband lost their house and were exiled to bumfucksville somewhere where her husband had a job while all the NOLA restaurants were closed. i figured last winter and spring when things started to open again and people started to rebuild that everything was probably going OK for them, but i’d never gotten around to going back to check them out, and it’s looking like she’s not doing so good. i hope things work out for her…

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