The New Orleans Saints - an Allegory
What we can learn by way of example from our NFL franchise
Once again, our beloved Saints have lost yet another game. Holding a 14-point lead over the hated Rams of St. Louis, a team hobbled by injury, illness, and penalty, the Saints didn't figure to have much difficulty in holding on to win, but these are afterall the Saints. This was supposed to be a gimme by NFL standards, and, despite inconsistent play, the Saints still had a decent shot at the end.
That's when one of the most terrible calls I've seen in recent NFL history was made and then compounded by a ridiculous loop hole of sorts in the "instant replay" rules. First, the call was that a Rams cornerback snatched the ball out of the hands of Saints Tight End, Ernie Conwell, one of about a thousand former Rams on the Saints roster, and said cornerback thus raced for the endzone to seal a Rams victory. The only problem was that Conwell was on the ground and touched by another Rams player, which means Conwell was tackled and the play was over.
That is, unless your jersey is black and white stripes.
The refs somehow saw a different game than the rest of the entire television audience, and decided to rule that the catch was being juggled by Conwell on the ground and thus still a live ball that could be snatched and returned for points. And here's where the salt gets poured in to our wounds: the Saints couldn't challenge the play because they were out of timeouts AND the officials couldn't force a review because the "two minute warning" hadn't been announced (there was 1:55 remaining at this point, by the way).
If there was any doubt in the ref's mind, he should have called the play dead on the spot. Given the amount of time left and the fact the Saints had no timeouts, had the call gone in favor of the Rams, the outcome would have been the same, a Rams victory. Instead, a referee makes a horrible call that effectively ends the game in favor of one team over another, and the outcome isn't decided on the field.
I know some of you might be saying, "Get over it, the Saints were going to lose anyway." Well, replace the Saints with any other team in the NFL in that situation and, just to focus the mind a little better, put your hard-earned money on the outcome, and tell me you would say such a thing. Nevertheless, the Saints are punished for doing what they thought was right and lose because of some petty rule, right?
Well, not exactly.
First, we should never have been that close to that team. We should be beating the tar out them, and not just because it's especially enjoyable against the Rams, but because we are demonstrably better than the Rams. This is the same thing we've been doing in New Orleans for generations. There were so many advantages that our city at one point or another held over our southern rivals, that it's difficult to list everyone without forgetting a few dozen. However, we still have a great climate, access to transportation, a wonderful atmosphere to live, great food, abundant resources, and friendly people, to name but a few, and still we lag behind the Atlantas, Houstons, Charlottes of this world.
Second, stuff happens. I know my prior comments belie this statement, but I do believe luck, bad or not, plays a big part of our lives. And, as my grandmother says, "The harder she works, the more luck she has." Katrina may have devestated our city, but it shouldn't have been this bad. Why was it then? We obviously haven't worked very hard at preparing ourselves. Whether it was Mayor Nagin's slight oversight in not preparing enough bus drivers for evacuations or individuals who DROVE to the Superdome before the storm, we all could have done better to prepare for this hurricane.
Third, winning consistently doesn't happen by accident. The Saints lose because they do not prepare themselves, likewise many of us do not succeed for the same reasons. Winning, whether in life or sports, is the result of a combustible mix of talent, hardwork, and cooperation. Although I didn't hear it directly, I sensed that a lot of Saints fans expected us to win because of what we've been through. The NFL is a business, and after they show the proper respect for our suffering, these teams are going to try like heck to kick our butts. Nothing personal, just business. In order for New Orleans to rise once again, we are going to have to work harder and longer than most of us ever have. Get used to that new reality, because no one owes us.
Finally, like the Saints, we've allowed the wrong people to run things for too long. Jim Haslett does not have what it takes to win consistently in the NFL and Tom Benson is a God-awful owner and even worse neighbor. Likewise, the same politicians who think they're part of the solution, were part of the problem to begin with, and thus lost all claim to our continued support for their efforts.
Like Mayor Nagin said, "You can keep the team, but leave us the name and jerseys and we'll get another franchise." While this is a reprehensible negotiation stance based upon specious reasoning, I agree with his sentiment. Mayor Nagin, you can have your "team", but leave us our city.