Take a look in the mirror, Saints fan. Notice that shit-eating grin? Sweet, ain’t it? No, no, don’t look away. Take it all in. This is your body’s natural reaction to having a monkey off your back.
For the next few moments, I want to take you along for a journey. Oh don’t worry, I won’t recap the long, troubled history of the Saints, the ugly “Brown Bag” era, the tragic “Aints” days, the emotional Hurricane Katrina connection. We all know that story. Hell, we all lived it. I want to relish in the moment we’re in right here, right now. I want to wallow in the emotion of the past 48 hours.
We couldn’t sleep on Saturday night. We tossed and turned like kids on Christmas morning. We knew what we’d asked for but we couldn’t quite predict what Santa had in store for us under the tree. We barely made it through our Sunday brunch, our stomachs churning with anticipation. We went to church (well, some of us) and felt halfway guilty for praying for our Saints, until of course the priest sneaked in a “Bless you, boys!” Those not fortunate enough to make it to the dome settled in front of the TV and halfway watched the Colts toy with the Jets. We were there in body, but our minds were already in fast forward.
Then finally, it was our time; kickoff in the dome. From the opening drive until the final play, it was as if the Saints had bottled up the intensity, anxiety, disappointment, exhilaration, terror, excitement, nausea, horny-ness, anger, frustration, breathlessness, drunkenness, exhaustion, heartache, delirium, bitterness and elation of us Saints fans from the past 42 years and poured it directly over our heads. I was drowning in emotion.
Were you with me, Saints fans?
Emotional roller coasters are what we’ve come to expect from our team. It’s only fitting they’d make history in a match-up that should have come with a complimentary toilet bowl, as the potential for a puke-fest always seemed a mere play away. Cuss words and prayers at times intertwined. “Dear God, please let the Saints stop them on this…F*ck!!!” “Lord, if you help Drew complete this pass, I promise I’ll…SON OF A BITCH!!!” We didn’t mean to be disrespectful. We’d just reached our limits.
All the characters in this drama fulfilled their expected roles. Reggie Bush played the part of the fumbling dude who literally drops the ball at the worst times. Drew Brees played the part of the inspiring hero who seemed hell bent on victory. The defense played the part of the aggressive “d” that also gives up big plays that make you want to throw something at your dog…or just throw your dog. Brett Favre played the part of the “Tough, Wrangler wearing QB who writhes all over the field in pain after a big hit like he’s about to die and really lays it on thick so that when he gets back in the game everyone will say ‘Damn, he’s so tough.’”
And then, there was Garrett Hartley.
We all knew there’d be an x-factor in this game. It was almost Reggie Bush, in the worst kind of way, until the defense bailed him out. It was almost the defense, until the defense bailed itself out. It was almost the referees with their crazy calls against both teams. But who would have thought that when it was all said and done, the Saints’ Super Bowl hopes would rest on the leg of Garrett Hartley.
How did you feel when you saw him lining up for that kick? Did you poop a little? It’s okay if you did. Who could judge you? Could you even watch him make the attempt? Did you only know we’d won based on the reaction of those around you? As for me, I was on my knees reciting a jumbled remix of every prayer I’d ever learned. I covered my eyes, then uncovered them. I almost looked like Brett Favre after his “meeting” with Bobby McCray.
Unlike Favre, I wasn’t faking it. My heart may have stopped for a few moments. I definitely held my breath. Then came the kick. It’s up…and it’s…good!!
I thought about my dad, who inspired in me a love for this team and this game. The Saints had made it to the Super Bowl in his lifetime. I thought about all the fans who read my blog and commiserate with me when the Saints lose and express such hope at the start of every season. I thought about my friends and all the games we’d been to, all of our crazy superstitions and all the shit we’ve had to put up with from fans of opposing teams. I thought about my city and what this would mean for so many people who’ve suffered a shared sense of yearning. I let the emotion pour out of me and I didn’t care who witnessed it or even whether they understood it because if they were true Saints fans, they knew exactly what that emotion was all about. And if they weren’t Saints fans, they could go screw themselves.
The Saints are going to the Super Bowl.
Allow me to write that again:
THE SAINTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!
This is real. Wait a minute….okay, I just went to ESPN to confirm. Yes, this IS real! We are living our dreams, Saints fans. And doesn’t it make sense that this would be the year? Pigs are flying (swine flu), hell’s frozen over (snow in florida), and there’s a black dude in the White House. How could we have ever doubted?
To the grown men who cried over the Saints win, we adore you. To the women who now no longer think of Saints football as “something they watch cause their boyfriends make them”, we welcome you. And to all you Saints fans who followed the instinct to hug or maybe even kiss a stranger, we salute you. Just keep in mind, the journey isn’t over. There’s one more mountain to climb. No one thinks we can do it, but that may just be the only thing about this experience that doesn’t feel brand new.