Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Deserving" To Win

Did the New Orleans Saints “deserve” to win the Super Bowl? Sure. So did the Colts. So does any team that makes it to the championship game of their sport, from Little League Baseball to Junior Hockey to the National Football League. So I guess the real question is, did the Saints deserve to win MORE than the Colts?

I don’t think so.

I lived in New Orleans back in the 80’s, when the Saints were so pitiful that people went to the home games in the Superdome with bags over their heads. If you wanted to see the game back then, you had to go. Under the NFL rules, if the game wasn’t a sellout, local TV was blacked out. Believe me, it wasn’t hard to get a ticket to a Saints game back then. And this was before the advent of home satellite TV, so if you wanted to see a home game, you went – or drove up to Baton Rouge to a sports bar or whatever.

No “NFL Ticket” packages from DishNet or DirecTV to get around a blackout.

In January of 1986, when the Bears played (and destroyed) the Patriots in Super Bowl XX, the joke around New Orleans was that the big game would be blacked out in the New Orleans TV market because it was being played in the Super Dome. Of course it wasn’t, but folks in the Big Easy were so used to having NFL games at the Super Dome blacked out that they groaned at the joke anyway.

But times change.

Katrina came and went, and left devastation that may never be fully repaired. The Saints spent an entire season playing “road” games. Their home venue, which was badly damaged by Katrina and had become a temporary shelter for thousands of victims of the hurricane, needed a lot of fixin’.

And the Saints started to get a lot better.

They got the guy who won the 2005 Heisman Trophy, running back Reggie Bush from Southern Cal. The next year they picked up Purdue quarterback Dru Brees from the Chargers, and things started to look a lot brighter for the franchise. Tom Benson, the wealthy car dealer who owns the Saints, was even seen smiling once in a while. They started winning games.

And in the past season, they did more than win. They DOMINATED games, and sent Brett Favre limping into the locker room after they took his Vikings apart in the NFC Championship.

So the story line began to be that the Saints “deserved” to be in the Super Bowl, and they “deserved” to win, because if they did, it would somehow mean that New Orleans is truly “back” from Katrina.

Not so much, if you ask me.

The Saints won the game convincingly, but what remains of the infamous Lower 9th Ward is just one of the many ugly scars on the city which may never heal. It’s still a national disgrace, what we let happen to the people who lived there, and those who never came back after Katrina. Apparently, to the rest of the nation, as long as the lights burn bright and the drinks flow freely on Bourbon Street, New Orleans is fine.

The Saints won the Super Bowl and I’m elated for them, and I proudly wore my old New Orleans garb Sunday. But they didn’t deserve to win because the city was hit by a devastating hurricane. They deserved to win because they played better than the Colts.

New Orleans still deserves a lot more from us than what we’ve given. More than a game they won by themselves.

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