Fri, 29 May 2020

A fresh look at a history-making New Orleans Saints game

New Orleans Saints
07 Apr 2020, 06:11 GMT+10

The realization truly didn't stick until Friday, during a podcast.

During that teleconference visit, former New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister said he'd never seen a re-broadcast of the Saints' Superdome re-opening game, the franchise's Sept. 25, 2006, game against Atlanta that marked New Orleans' first home game after Hurricane Katrina.

Game film? Sure, Deuce said, he'd seen that. An actual, uninterrupted rebroadcast as chronicled during the televised broadcast? Nope, not one time.

And it struck: I haven't, either.

I've seen highlights, of course, an avalanche of them the day after. But never, start to finish, have I actually watched the game. And my recollection of what happened on the field - I covered it as a columnist for The Times-Picayune - isn't hazy, so much as it's virtually nonexistent.

Steve Gleason's blocked punt and Curtis DeLoatch's recovery of it for a touchdown is about all I can tell you about what happened on the Superdome turf. I wrote a column and I'm sure it included game details, but off hand I can't specifically remember what were those actual details.

That element will change tonight, when ESPN re-airs that Monday night football game. And I have to say, I'm looking forward to it, a lot more than even I believed I would.

Don't ask why I never watched. There's no good, valid reason for not having re-watched, arguably, one of the five most important games in franchise history.

It wasn't because of an I-was-there attitude, or an I'm-too-smooth-for-that-kind-of-thing vibe. Of the billions of movies, programs, concerts and "Jeopardy" shows I've seen since then (does "Jeopardy" humble you like it humbles me, and make you feel like nobody can know that much stuff?), I simply never carved out the time.

Today is carving day. For me, it'll be a really nice meal.

It was that the first time around, for totally different reasons. My recollection is of things that were peripheral to the game.

You could despise U2 and not know the difference between Green Day and Wednesday, and be considered the village idiot if you couldn't admit that the pregame concert was chilling. To this day, "The Saints Are Coming" is about as powerful, and as appropriate, an anthem as has ever been delivered.

The national anthem was gripping, emotional, stirring. Tears were shed - author included - because more than anything, the thought of New Orleans' resilience, and the sharing of it, was overwhelming. It wasn't a football game so much as a rebirth, and if you consider that hyperbole, that tells me you were nowhere near the Superdome or New Orleans.

Blue roofs still were dotting the landscape, recovery was nowhere near complete and critics wondered why in the world would New Orleans be concerned with staging a football game while the body count from Katrina still hadn't totally be tallied.

But the truth was, we needed it.

We needed to show signs of life, of recovery. The opening of the Superdome was symbolic of resilience, not decadence. There was a level of defiance to it: The city still was on its knees, but that was an improvement from being flat on its back and nothing was going to stop it from again standing upright.

The Superdome previously had a hole in its roof. Now, it was whole again, a status we all were striving to attain.

Honestly, I didn't think the Saints possibly could lose the game because the NFL placed its thumb on the scale - nationally televised home game for the Dome re-opening, against a despised rival, in front of fans who hadn't seen the Saints play a regular-season game in New Orleans since Dec. 26, 2004.

But the result didn't matter as much as did the journey to get to that point - "home" games in 2005 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, and at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge had everyone longing for whatever sliver of normalcy we could latch on to.

This time, the actual game will matter a little more for me.

Obviously, home confinement plays a significant role. I'm as wary of COVID-19 as health officials are warning us to be, and maybe more so, because I'd rather be an overly cautious asymptomatic carrier at home than an overconfident, careless twit who unknowingly endangers a mother or grandfather. So, possibly, I've spent more hours of more consecutive days at home, inside, than at any point in my lifetime.

But this will be one of the healthiest distractions I've had, because I'll be watching the game in a way I've never seen it before.

Carving out time won't be as daunting as I've made it before.

Neither will be enjoying this entree.

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