Monday, October 24, 2005

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.


At 4:10 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

The one difference (and a biggie) is that Benson will not be held accountable at the voting booth, while Nagin will. And if Nagin is reelected, I hope you come to realize that your beef lies not with Nagin, but with your fellow New Orleaneans.

Your claim to ownership of the City (i.e. "our" city) is very short-sighted, and even a bit arrogant, as you seem to be assuming that the "our" in this equation are people who think like you. Please note that you don't speak for me, and I have just as much a claim to "our" City as you do.

So let the democratic process work. And if Nagin is reelected by a majority of the citizens of New Orleans, then you will have to realize that being a part of "our" City means living with Nagin as "our" mayor -- just as liberals like myself, if we still want to claim our American citizenship, have to accept George Bush as our President. And if you can't do this, perhaps you need to face the unpleasant fact that "our" City is, in fact, not "yours" -- and there are some good parishes to the west or north of New Orleans that you might feel more comfortable calling your own.

It still amazes me that we have sparred over this on numerous occasions, with the full knowledge that I didn't vote for Nagin to be our mayor while you did. What irony!

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

It's not irony for one to recognize their mistakes, like I've done, and it's foolish for you to wish to follow them. My "beef" is with the City's leadership, which is headed by Nagin. When the worst of the aftermath was occuring, he and Compass somehow found the time to go on Oprah. Not some cable news program or broadcast TV investigative program, but Oprah. WTF?!?!?

And if by arrogant, you meant the original meaning of the word, I agree, for to arrogate, means to take possession of that which is rightfully one's own. I choose to be arrogant about my role in our community and wish to make it better. From your posts, you do, too.

Let's work together, but not with these "leaders". We deserve better.

At 2:39 AM, Blogger Peter Fenerk said...

C'mon, Huck. You can't seriously think Nagin will get re-elected. Smart money says he hasn't the balls to run. And if his folk don't return in large numbers, which is becoming a bigger possibility with every passing day, the new demographics will be the final nail in his brief political coffin.

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

peter fenerk - the interesting thing about Nagin is that in his race against Pennington, another black male politician, Nagin won the vast majority of the "white folk" vote, while Pennington won more of the black folk vote than Nagin.

So, I'm not quite sure what you mean when you refer to Nagin's "folk." If you mean black people, well the black folk that are likely to return are the ones that probably voted for him in the first place, while the white folk who are returning probably voted for him, too. I think, if anything, the returning "folk" - whether white or black - were Nagin folk. That may have changed some, but probably not all that much.

In short, I do think Nagin will be reelected should he decide to run for reelection because many folk think Nagin's done an overall good job as mayor. And we have yet to see any credible challenger surface yet.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

Huck's right on this one. Nagin's support was the only viable political alliance, whites and middle class blacks. However, after having their homes flooded in Lakeview, Gentilly, and the East and watching the lower classes in open revolt due to Nagin's incompetence, how do you justify your belief that these people will support Nagin again?

Oh, wait, no one credible has announced, yet. Don't hang your hat on that twig, Huck.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

Time will tell. I'm keeping an open mind about whoever will run for Mayor, but I'm certainly not down on Nagin like you seem to be; and I would have absolutely no problems voting for him.

It is fair to criticize Nagin for how he handled the aftermath of Katrina, but to link such criticism to some kind of responsibility for the flooded homes in Lakeview, Gentilly, and the East (not to mention Mid-city and parts of Uptown), well that's just silly.

Nagin didn't flood the homes. Katrina and a failed levee system did that.

And who is a credible opponent to Nagin? Jay Batt? Jackie Clarkson? Bill Jefferson? Eddie Compass? Seriously, I can't think of a viable contender.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

To change the subject a bit, I would very much appreciate hearing your opinion on Peppi Bruneau's proposals for litigation to help those Lakeview homeowners who had no flood insurance or who were underinsured to get some compensation -- whether by suing to have homeowner's coverage apply to flood damage or by suing the levee board or Army Corps of Engineers for the "human" errors in levee design. I recall reading that such proposals which he articulated at a recent meeting in Lakeview were greeted with resounding cheers and applause. As a conservative and as a Lakeview homeowner, what's your take on that?

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

Huck, I appreciate your asking my opinion, and I do have an initial impression, but I will have to address your question after I have some more facts.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

I'll be waiting eagerly to hear your thoughts. Personally, I think Peppi Bruneau's trying to change the rules post-facto, which doesn't seem all that fair or all that conservative. I also think that the prospect of limiting class-action lawsuits with genuine tort reform has died on the altar of un/under-insured feelings of entitlement in the wake of post-Katrina flooding. After all, it's got to be somebody else's fault that homeowners didn't have flood insurance or that they were underinsured, right?

Seriously, seeing Peppi Bruneau spout such populist rhetoric does make one think about how far-reaching our entitlement culture goes, doesn't it?

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

I've got a call in to his office, but sadly it's my schedule that's delayed things.


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