How much did we need the New Orleans Saints to come marchin’ in? About as much as we need to breathe. We’ve been choking on disheartening news about health care, Haiti, the deficit, car bombs, floods, and senseless murders.
When CNN began covering the Saints Super Bowl victory parade in New Orleans around 5 pm Tuesday night, they got hooked. Sometime after the parade began to be televised, someone in CNN headquarters realized this was a national event. They surrendered to the Who Dat Nation. They went for the whole muffaletta.
There was non-stop coverage for more than two hours, the kind of coverage normally reserved for death, or tragedy- the kind that consumed the networks in this city in 2005. Someone at the controls realized this was the perfect bookend to that tragic story.
Wolf Blitzer was smiling. New Orleans native Donna Brazile brought her Saints parasol to the set and tried to coax Wolf into a little second line hoofing. Mary Matalin and James Carville. Louisianians both, interviewed celebrants from the governor down to Chef Paul Prudhomme from their spot on the parade route.
Carville said, “There are 1.7 million people who live in greater New Orleans. It feels like a million of them are here tonight.” Other CNN reporters tried to be heard over the joyous throng along the 3.7 mile parade route. They simply gave up and let their microphones relay the bon temps rolling down St. Charles Avenue.
Black, white, young, old, there they were, ten deep along the route, hanging from street lamps, screaming from balconies, tears of joy and laughter rising from the deepest part of their guts. Since 2005 and Katrina, they’ve know their share of pain. loss, uprootedness. Now it was time to say, ‘We’re back!” “We survived!” “We’re gonna make it!”
If you tuned in, you’d have witnessed an entire state whoop, holler, and cry with joy. Their team, a metaphor for a city trying to rebuild after being blitzed by Katrina, pulled one of its bootstraps up in its effort to overcome the devastation visited upon it in August 2005.
The New Orleans Saints had come from the “Aints” to the champions of the football world. How good did that feel? I’ve been to Louisiana twice in the past year. I can tell you there’s not a diner, eatery, bar, bistro, or family business that does not have Saints paraphernalia someplace visible on the premises. And it’s been there from the lean times to the now party times.
The parade celebrating the Saints winning the Super Bowl was gumbo for the soul. The Saints coach built up his team with the kind of players who want to be there, want to work together, and, you have to understand, feel like part of the New Orleans rebuilding process. Their city loves them for that.
New Orleans Saints, the underdog, the wonder team, the team whose foot fit perfectly into the glass slipper in the high couture closet of the National Football League was out to party with their people. Unlike Cinderella's, their party would last long after midnight.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.