I must be dreaming. I sometimes take these afternoon naps and wake up wondering what day it is. Today I rubbed my eyes and thought I had just watched the Saints defeat the great Indianapolis Colts in the Miami Super Bowl.
Oh? I did? It really happened?
Incredible. Wonderful. Mind-stunning.
This one will take weeks to soak in.
What do the experts know?
All week long I got so tired of hearing the wonderful Peyton Manning lauded as the greatest ever, Drew Brees as “good but unproven,” and–this one really got me–the Saints not having a chance because “they haven’t been here before.”
Think of that.
If going to a Super Bowl would automatically entitle you to an advantage the next time, the Buffalo Bills should have won the second, third, and fourth ones they were in. Instead, they lost all four.
The Saints won. The experts–and there were plenty of them–did not give our team a chance.
Saints won by 2 touchdowns, 14 points.
I am thrilled.
At this moment, the neighbors are out in the streets dancing to Fats Domino blaring from someone’s speakers. Fireworks are exploding in every direction. And I don’t mean firecrackers. These are massive, light-up-the-sky shatter-your-eardrums boomers.
After the morning service–the final one of seven meetings as part of our “renewal weekend”–I left the First Baptist Church of Talladega, Alabama at 12:20 today, driving furiously toward home in order to share this moment with friends and family. I stopped only for a couple of potty breaks and bought a burger in Laurel which I ate while driving. Walked in to my pastor’s home at 6:30 on the nose, 400 miles logged.
The game was a nail-biter, a white-knuckler. Mike and Terri Miller and son Michael had invited my son Neil, his wife Julie (who is also Mike’s secretary) and their three kids (my wonderful grands), along with new staffer David Rhymes and wife Jamie. And me.
We were all sporting our Saints jerseys (I wore mine all the way home, on the outside of my longsleeve dress shirt). We hooped and hollered and high-fived. We ate and laughed and grieved and shouted and worried. We ran outside when the Saints scored their first TD and found the neighbors were having a dance in the street.
There will be no sleep taken in this town tonight.
The television showed that in the Saints first 42 year history, they won 2 post-season games. This year, our coach, Sean Payton, has won two–and now a third, the ultimate prize itself.
Today at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where I belong (but remember, I was in Talladega, Alabama, so I got this second-hand), the pastor called on the minister of music, Ron Laitano, for the closing prayer as he (Mike) headed for the foyer. Ron said, “Uh, pastor, call on someone else.” That was strange and unprecedented. So the pastor stayed and did it himself.
While he was praying, people were moving around. When the prayer ended, a dozen people lining across the platform broke into “When the Saints Go Marching in.” A few in the congregation waved handkerchiefs and more than one tried to get a second-line dance going. (We’re Baptists, so that didn’t ‘take.’)
The Catholics down here have had no trouble devoting services to promotion of the Saints team, praying specifically for them and asking saints in glory to use their influence for victories. We Baptists–they’re the only group I am very familiar with–are of two minds about that. We want the victory, but somehow praying for one does not seem right. We assume the Indiana churches are pulling for their team also.
So, we work into our sermons and prayers these little oblique references to the Saints and ask God to help each one to do our best, that sort of thing.
But all the while, we’re thinking, “O Lord, we want this so bad!”
Finally, today, I did it. I broke down on the drive down I-59 in Mississippi and said, “Father, I really really want us to win this. Please?” I added something about how I know some will abuse the victory, but they would also abuse the defeat. And a victory would just do so much to lift the spirits of this community.
And now, here it is.
I confess to getting a little carnal satisfaction in seeing Peyton Manning flustered in the second half. The invincible, always to be counted on, warrior-champion lost his cool more than once and my guess is those were cursewords coming out his mouth. I’m not happy to see anyone using profanity, but I sure did like to see him discombobulated since our guys were the perpetrators. Oh, did I ever.
This will surely go down as one of the best Super Bowl games ever, even if you didn’t have a favorite. I told the people at the Millers “If we win this, it will be a great game. If we lose it, I don’t ever want to watch it again.”
I’m now ready to see it again and again.
This was the greatest win in the 43 year history of this team. And one of the most wonderful things to happen to this city, ever.
My heart goes out to the sports writers who have spent the last week in Miami interviewing one another and reinforcing their prejudices. Think of it–you can’t think of anything to write, but your editor (or producer) back at home is demanding something fresh for today. So, you rely on a favorite stunt of sports writers: you compare statistics of the various players.
You write that this quarterback threw for more touchdowns than the other, this player sacked the QB more than his counterpart on the other team. And finally, you add up all your pluses and minuses and you come to a truly asinine conclusion: the team with the most successful players will be the winner.
Sooner or later, it should get through even to the most thick-headed of sports writers than no football game is about which team is the best. It’s about which team puts more points on the scoreboard. Period.
It’s not about which team uses their time-outs more wisely, which ones have better receivers or a bigger line or more athletic receivers. It’s about which team puts more points on the scoreboard and nothing else.
Case in point. After the Saints put up a score in the game and it was time to kick the football to the Colts, meaning the Saints’ defense would now have to try to “hold” Peyton Manning and his high-octane offense, the Saints pulled a trick out of their rabbit’s hat: they did an on-side kick.
In an on-side kick, as soon as the football goes 10 yards, it’s fair for anyone who gets it. Or, if it goes less than 10 yards, but the opposing player touches it, it’s a “live” ball and anyone can get it. When a member of the Colts team grabbed for it and the ball bounced away, the Saints were all over it.
The result was that Manning never had a chance to come out then and lead his team. Saints quarterback Drew Brees led his team’s offense toward the Colts end zone.
It’s one way to stifle a high-powered team like Manning’s: keep them off the field.
There are spiritual lessons for Christians there, and sermons for preachers, but I’ll let that rest for tonight.
Yesterday, in the mayoral election in New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, our Lieutenant Governor (and younger brother of Senator Mary Landrieu), won the primary hands down with 66 percent of the vote. He will be the first white to be mayor of New Orleans since his father Moon Landrieu held the office 32 years ago.
But tonight, all that matters is that the New Orleans Saints have won the Super Bowl.
How sweet it is.
Thank you Lord!!!!
(Outside, I hear horns blowing, music thumping, and people hollering. It’s been going on continuously for the last 45 minutes since the game ended.)