For those of you who know that I'm from the Big Easy, it might come as no surprise that I was celebrating in the French Quarter on Sunday night, following the New Orleans Saints' historic Super Bowl win against the Indianapolis Colts. Normally, Dan and I would be in Los Angeles by now, preparing for our Beverly Hills Shorts Festival, but as soon as we knew that the Saints were going to be in the Super Bowl for the first time ever, our plans inevitably changed. After all, we were determined to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime event – and we knew that celebrating with our fellow New Orleanians in the Quarter would be far more memorable than seeing the game in Miami.
And, man, oh, man, was it ever a memorable experience. Although we were invited to two different Super Bowl parties – one at my godfather's house in Metairie, the other at my stepbrother's place in Mid City – we opted instead to see the big game from the comfort of The Kerry Irish Pub, our favorite watering hole in the French Quarter. Of course, we were a little late to the party – traffic, as you might have guessed, was a nightmare in downtown New Orleans. But, luckily, after being in the car for over an hour and a half, and beginning to believe we were going to miss the kick-off, we finally found a parking spot at the Harrah's Casino garage on Poydras Street.
Soon afterward, we were making a beeline for the Kerry, where the owner, Doris, had laid out a spread of hot dogs, chili, salsa, chips, brownies, and the like for her regular customers as well as the out-of-towners (many of whom were dressed in team jerseys). Happily, we were just in time for the pre-game show, so we grabbed some vittles, bought a couple of beers, took our place beside the covered pool table, and waited – with a whole mess of other die-hard Saints fans – for the game to begin.
Although it didn't look so promising for the Saints during the first quarter, Dan and I remained hopeful. After all, despite widespread predictions that the Colts were going to wipe the floor with the Saints, the score wasn't all that high, and by the start of the second half, it was clear that the Saints were going to fight hard for this one. As Coach Sean Payton, Quarterback Drew Brees, and the other Saints have been saying for a while now, this Super Bowl wasn't just significant for the team – a win would mean something to the entire city of New Orleans, perhaps signifying that, despite the death and destruction that Hurricane Katrina left behind in 2005, the spirit of this unique place couldn't be broken.
As the fourth quarter progressed, the tension and excitement continued to grow inside the Kerry – and, no doubt, in bars, hotels, and homes throughout the city. Everyone – including me and Dan – were alternately jumping up and down and shaking our heads in disbelief. Moments before the Saints scored their final touchdown, Dan sent a text to his brother (who, by the way, was rooting for the Colts) that read, “watch out... pic six coming!” Even today, he's still tickled that he called the game-winning play before it happened.
Of course, when it happened, there were still a few minutes left in the game, and everyone in the Kerry knew that, with Peyton Manning on the other side, anything was possible. Our adrenaline was pumping, our eyes were glued to the television, and a few of us looked as though fainting was a high probability. But our boys did it – they managed to rattle the mighty Colts, the team that had been favored by many analysts, broadcasters, and former coaches. And you should have heard the collective cheer when the Colts missed their chance for a comeback, and the Saints were declared the winners of the 44th Super Bowl.
Naturally, the cheers didn't stop there. Once the game had ended, people poured out of bars and hotels throughout the Quarter, like streams of black-and-gold cockroaches, and all night long, car horns were honking, Mardi Gras beads were flying, and people were singing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” shouting “Who Dat!” and dancing in the streets. Dan and I have never seen the Quarter so crowded before – not even for Mardi Gras. By midnight, Royal Street was so packed that it resembled Bourbon Street on a normal weekend, and Bourbon Street itself was teeming with so many revelers that Dan and I decided to watch all the action from the relative safety of a Lucky Dog cart at the corner of Bourbon and Conti. For a long time, we stood there, watching strangers (some of whom were dressed in crazy outfits, like black tutus and a black-and-gold Boba Fett costume) hug and high-five one another. It was the only night that people actually wanted to touch a cop – I saw many people (drunk or simply elated) embrace them, too.
As on any other night, we saw a few unhappy folks – girls with tear-stained cheeks, men yelling at their girlfriends. Alcohol, unfortunately, can bring out the worst in some people. But, most of the folks we saw were delighted – stunned but thrilled that the Saints had managed to achieve the ultimate win – not just for themselves, but for a city still on the mend. The win offered a spiritual boost that will resonate for a long time. Even today, while Dan was at the grocery store, people were still shouting “Who Dat!” at one another.
I could go on and on, psychoanalyzing this incredible event, speculating on its lasting significance, and questioning Peyton Manning's choice not to shake Drew Brees's hand at the game's end (which, incidentally, seemed pretty classless to me, especially considering Peyton's personal connection to the Saints and the city of New Orleans), but better writers than I have already tackled all of the above over the past two days. So, I'll just leave you with this: Seeing that it's a “Monday Munchies” post, I could have focused on the food of Super Bowl Sunday, but sometimes, we need more than food to nourish us – sometimes, we require spiritual fulfillment, too. And that's what this win represented for me, Dan, my family, and everyone else who celebrated on Sunday night – the fulfillment of a decades-old wish and a citywide dream – something that many New Orleanians (whether former or current residents) believed would never happen in their lifetime, something that many of us craved in the wake of the storm that nearly destroyed the Crescent City.
While the Saints' Super Bowl win might not turn everything around in New Orleans, bring back every lost soul, and rebuild every devastated neighborhood, it certainly gives us hope in the face of adversity and makes us realize that anything – and I mean, anything – is possible, and that sort of nourishment lasts a lot longer than the food we ate on Sunday – no matter how much we enjoyed our post-game seafood gumbo at the Oceana Grill. Of course, if the record-breaking television viewership is any indication, New Orleanians weren't the only ones curious about this historic game – which means, no matter who you were rooting for on Sunday night, you probably sensed that this game was part of a larger story – a story that will continue to play out tomorrow at the special Saints parade downtown... and long after that.
P.S. Forgive my terribly grainy photos – my camera broke just before kick-off, so I had to rely on my cell phone, which is, well, less than reliable. Nevertheless, I persevered.
8 hours ago