Called the Cops

I called the popo on a neighbor last night. Hated to do it, but he was apparently intoxicated, enraged, and going after his brother with a damn shovel, yelling that he intended to kill him. Three cop cars showed up. Fortunately I don’t think anyone was hurt or arrested.

There is data indicating that “violence against women spikes after the home pro football team suffers an upset.” I don’t think the Packers victory was an upset, and the target here was not a woman, but still I have to wonder whether this would have happened if the Saints had won.

Brett Favre Retirement Party

Is there any point in even trying to talk about anything else today? No. There’s not, not here in New Orleans anyway. Tonight the Saints play the Vikings in a re-match that is being hyped beyond all belief. And yet the massive hype feels perfectly natural and entirely appropriate, here in New Orleans anyway. I don’t know about the rest of the country.

Grandpa Farve [sic]

I saw this truck in the brickyard parking lot yesterday morning. You can’t see in this shot, but this gold pickup is decked out in Saints regalia, including a big “Who Dat Nation” marquee on top of the cab. This little diorama is in the bed. Yeah, so they spelled his name wrong. Can you really blame them? They get extra points for creativity.

A sign on the back of the truck said “Brett Favre Retirement Party.” Or so I thought. When I passed by this morning I saw the same truck but no sign. So maybe I imagined the sign, or maybe it fell off.

I for one plan to tune in and watch the retirement party on television tonight.

Update: Howie jogged my memory. I did not imagine the “Retirement Party” concept — I saw it on Facebook thanks to the fabulous Mary H. Gotta give credit where it’s due. If my memory continues to deteriorate it may be time for my retirement party soon.

I should also note that Howie had a cool Favre voodoo doll.

Rituals & Roundtables

Over the long weekend I was privileged to observe and even participate in some bizarre graveyard rituals to ensure a victorious season for the New Orleans Saints. These were organized in large part by college professors. There were at least three profs in attendance — maybe more. With getups like these it’s hard to tell.

Graveyard Ritual

I also had the opportunity to sit in on a roundtable discussion organized by the New Orleans Lamplight Circle, a local pagan group. This is the second such discussion I’ve attended. The previous was on “Existentialism and Spirituality.” This one was a true roundtable, with participants bringing their own topics for discussion. We talked about everything from the nature of divinity to the proper texture of brownies, and all points in between.

I thought this was a funny sort of inversion, since one typically associates academics with roundtables, and magic rituals with pagans, rather than the other way round.

Settling for Less — No More

New Orleans Saints Fans High-Five Each Other

Today I’m offering a rare guest post by my friend David. Take it away, man.


B, I agree with all your points, but as someone who grew up here, the win means even more.

We all know that historically the Saints were a lousy team. The first Saints game I attended was in the 1980 season, when the Saints posted a 1-15 record, a record that remained the NFL’s worst until last season’s Detroit team went 0-16. The Saints went decades without a winning season followed by thirteen years in which they could not win a playoff game, modest accomplishments that are pro forma for most teams. Before Katrina, I frequently said, “Being a Saints fan is like trying to convince yourself you’re in love with a woman who’s been sleeping around on you; you know, sooner or later, you’re going to be let down.” By any empirical basis, on an intuitive level, the Saints’ winning the Super Bowl was simply impossible.

New Orleans’ culture possesses a unique ability to transmute disappointment into some kind of celebration, and so we did with the Saints. We wore our paper bags in the Superdome and turned our embarrassment into a hilarious, iconic joke. But we settled. We settled for less, for a real embarrassment. New Orleans does possess qualities that are precious and entirely too rare, chief among them are wildly creative imaginations, sublime beauty, and a humbling, profound love for this place. But the dark side of our city’s joyous resilience is that we’re willing to settle for less — from our government, from our corporations, from our civic discourse.

We all know that the Saints’ victory “means more than football.” In fact, it matters very little to me that the Saints beat the Colts or that they stand on top of the nation’s most prestigious sports league or that sports fans the world over are in love with our team. The reason my eyes well up when I think about the Super Bowl is because our team achieved something truly grand, despite every challenge, circumstance and history that would have excused them for settling for less.

So we have witnessed a sports champion becoming a people’s champion. Entrenched mindsets have fallen away; insufferable difficulties have been overcome. And now I cannot help but dream and dream big, of the city’s overcoming its oldest embarrassment, the ethnic divisions between her citizens created by their economic exploitation. We caught a glimpse of it every Sunday in the Superdome as the Who Dat Nation stood shoulder-to-shoulder, regardless of race, to rock the Dome in one voice. My dream is that, in this city of passionate love, each New Orleanian comes to love all New Orleanians and view the plight of their neighbors as the plight of their beloved city. Of course, fate handed us a new mayor on the eve of this victory, one who fortunately made unity his mantra. My dream is that, in this city of such imagination and creativity, we imagine and create a government and society based on economic and social justice. Such accomplishments are harder than winning a Super Bowl. Many would say they’re impossible. But Sunday, the Saints showed us that impossible is nothing.

Not a Football Fan

A number of friends have remarked recently at how surprised they are to see me writing about sports, and about football in particular, since they remember when I didn’t know anything about the game except that the ball’s shaped funny.

It was not that long ago, really.

One thing I should perhaps clarify: I am not a football fan. I am a Saints fan. There is a difference.

I’ve already recounted how I came to appreciate the game of football in my fortieth year. If you missed this fascinating disclosure, I suggest you revisit my Confessions of a Football Skeptic. Most everything I’ve learned about the game has come from watching the Saints. I still haven’t taken much of an interest in watching other teams play.

But there’s more to it than that.

People here love the team. I remember years ago seeing a statistical proof that Saints fans were the most loyal in the nations, as a ratio of ticket sales to losses, or some such. The fans are off-the-chain crazy devoted, and that’s somewhat infectious.

But there’s more to it than that.

Dare I say it? The Saints have a cool image. They have an unusual name, an awesome logo (which goes back to the 12th century if not earlier) and classy colors. Even before I started following the game, I could be seen sporting Saints gear occasionally, just because I wanted to look cool.

B Fat Stats
Editor B in Cypress Grove Cemetery circa 2003

But, again, there’s so much more to it than that.

I could go on and on in this vein, but I’ll cut to the chase. After the floods of 2005, when everything about this city was called into question, interest in every aspect of the local culture intensified greatly, and I too was caught up in that. I decided to actually check the Saints out and try to understand what all these incredibly loyal fans were on about. It just so happened that I started paying attention as the team started to catch fire under Brees and Payton. The success of the team has been, quite simply, an inspiration to just about everyone living here. The team’s public rhetoric about rebuilding together has supported this. They are more than a metaphor. They are an example.

If they can succeed, so can we. Here’s a video clip wherein Garland Robinette says “they have awakened us to our own recovery.”

Despite many positive aspects, New Orleans had been on the decline for a good century, and thus falling from the national consciousness, when the city flooded in 2005. All of a sudden we were thrust into the spotlight, and it wasn’t pretty. Everything negative about the city, all our failings and shortcomings were on display — even as the nation was reminded of all the unique things New Orleans contributes.

So now here we are in 2010 and New Orleans is again a focus of national media attention, only this time the story is positive. More people watched this Super Bowl than any televised event in human history. As the saying goes, you can’t buy that sort of publicity. This is huge, and we need it.

But maybe even more importantly than how this makes us look to others, is how this makes us look at ourselves, like Garland said. It’s a reminder of the simple truism that if we pull together and work hard we can accomplish great things. We need that reminder.

Has there ever been a time when an NFL team has meant so much to a city, to a region, as what the Saints have meant over the past four and half years to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? I don’t know enough about the history of the league to answer that question. But I suspect not.

The closest I can imagine is the Detroit Lions. Now that the Saints have made it all the way, the Lions are the only old team to never play in the Super Bowl. And furthermore the Detroit area has been weathering an economic storm for years that has in some ways been worse than the flooding New Orleans experienced. If the Lions were ever to mount a resurgence such as the Saints have done, it might have a similar feel to it.

Until then, I think it’s safe to say that New Orleans has a very special relationship to its team. Sure, there are plenty of football fanatics here. But I believe there are also a great number of fans, like myself, who simply would not be following any team if they lived elsewhere.

To reiterate, I am not a football fan. I’m a Saints fan. There is a difference.

A Few Choice Quotes

Toddler Abuses Peyton Manning
Toddler Abuses Peyton Manning

The Saints won a decisive victory against a worthy opponent, and people in New Orleans couldn’t be happier. To be perfectly honest I’m still having a hard time believing this is real. I had been anticipating defeat. I’d thought about what I’d say here if New Orleans lost — how it still felt like victory just to be in the game, how we’d still have a bigger party than Indianapolis. I even had a title for today’s entry: “Blue Monday (Not).” But I really didn’t expect… this. I didn’t expect I’d be writing from this perspective. I find I’m at a loss for words. So I will let some other people speak for me:

Text messages from my sister last night:

A win for pitty aint shit. Ur livin a 4 yr old wet dream all the way out.

Let me guess, u orleanians r going to riot n loot over a win? Whodat?

(For the record, no.)

Comments posted on yesterday’s column about me in the Bloomington Herald-Times:

Bart Everson was, is, and will always be a self-styled schmuck whose only claim to fame is his own hot air, seasoned with chronic halitosis.

Plus Bart lied about Timothy McVeigh being from Indiana. McVeigh was from the Niagara Falls area. He was executed in Terre Haute.

Barton P. Everson is a filthy, half-witted varlet, and his clothes are both malodorous and out of fashion! Were he in need of a napkin at a pumpkin-eating contest, and were I in charge of distributing napkins, not only I would not offer him a napkin, I would not give him one if he asked for it! I would pretend not to hear his pleas for napkins! That’s how scurrilous I find him! I am quite serious about this!

I, too, find his pustulent, malodorous nephariousness a preponderance of the ilk known abroad as a not-squeaky-clean person in his attributes and general bearing to be a massive run-on sentence. The injurious intent of his regular diatribitic misuse of community jocularity could only be interpreted as portential to the delusional meanderings of those whose socks could use a good wash…

Joe Flint for the Los Angeles Times:

Move over Hawkeye Pierce, looks like Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints just took your ratings crown along with the Super Bowl title.

Bill Simmons for ESPN:

On the heels of another third-down throw to Clark, Addai charges in for a 4-yard rushing touchdown (10 plays, 76 yards, 5:26 drive), followed by a shot of the Manning family’s luxury box and Archie sitting sadly before realizing, “Oh, crap, there are cameras on me, I can’t root for the Saints!” and belatedly applauding. That was fun.

Bill Barnwell on ESPN:

May the feeling you had watching Tracy Porter run the victory into the end zone remain on instant recall for generations

Jerry Izenberg for The Star-Ledger:

He is the one who triggered an early Mardi Gras, who wrote the ultimate comeback saga and hurled it directly into the teeth of the depression Katrina wrought. He is the one who gave new life into the age old New Orleans’ call to arms and revelry Sunday night: ‘‘Laissez les bon temps rouler’’ — “Let the good times roll.’’

Ohm Youngmisuk for the New York Daily News:

For Porter, this was incredibly sweet since he was born in Louisiana and played high school football there before attending Indiana University.

Andy Hutchins on The Sporting Blog:

Look, I know that Tracy Porter’s superb film study is what actually enabled him to pick off Peyton Manning’s fourth-quarter pass and return it for the Super Bowl 44-sealing touchdown Sunday night. If you believe that a mix of confidence and style can put karma on your side, though, join me in praising Tracy Porter’s hair.

Bob Kravitz, sports columnist for the Indianapolis Star:

But in the end, the Indianapolis Colts were left with nothing. Just a bitter, hollow feeling that will last well into the offseason.

Michael David Smith on NBC Sports Pro Football Talk:

And so it’s no surprise that Manning and Wayne weren’t in particularly good spirits after the game, and that they went straight to the locker room instead of sticking around on the field afterward to offer post-game handshakes to the Saints.

Maybe it’s time to stick in another pin…

Another Peyton Manning Voodoo Doll

Peter King for MySI:

It’s right, it’s fair, it’s just, it’s good, it’s shocking.

CBS/AP:

He said the Saints are not like a lot of NFL teams. Brees said the Saints “played for so much more than just ourselves. We played for our city … and the entire Who Dat nation that was behind us all the way.”

Simon Evans for Reuters:

The celebrations included the curious sight of Saints’ quarterback coach Joe Lombardi posing alongside the trophy named after his grandfather.

Judy Battista for the New York Times:

“This thing [the Lombardi trophy] laid in my bed next to me last night,” Payton said. “I rolled over; I probably drooled on it. Man, there’s nothing like it.”

Andrew Astelford for ESPN:

For many, [Ward McClendon] said, there remains a hole in lives in this area, where more than 75 percent of the pre-Hurricane Katrina population remains displaced. Here, he said, football has helped heal. Especially after a Super Bowl victory. “It’s doing a lot for our spirit,” McClendon said.

San Francisco Chronicle

Aside from bringing a championship to a hard-luck city, Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts is feeding feelings the city can overcome the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and solve long-standing problems.

Chris Herring for the Wall Street Journal:

“Even sober people came here for this, and that’s not something you normally see this time of year in New Orleans,” said Tish Welch-Slusher, a Sulphur, La. resident, referring to Mardi Gras. “This is going to be crazy.”

Richard Fausset for the L.A. Times:

At the Crowne Plaza Astor Hotel New Orleans, at Bourbon and Canal streets, numerous wait staff failed to show up for work Monday morning, and management types were conspicuously bussing dirty tables at breakfast time.

Anthony on Facebook:

Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?!? No one!!!

Black & Gold & Blue & White Superbowl

Ekambaranathar

Yesterday everyone on campus was wearing black and gold — except for our administrative assistant. A Colts fan from way back, she was defiant in a blue and white dress which she’d been saving for the occasion. She’ll be rooting for the Colts in the Superbowl. But even she was happy the Saints will be there too.

This is the match-up I was hoping to see. Months ago when both the Colts and the Saints were racking up consecutive wins, it occurred to me that it could happen. And since I grew up in Indianapolis and still have friends and family there, I decided I really wanted it to happen, and have fervently wished for it ever since. I only wish I’d been bolder and predicted that it would happen. Then I could brag.

It should be a fun game. Think about it: the Hoosier team with the New Orleans quarterback versus the New Orleans team with the (sorta) Hoosier quarterback. I say “sorta” because Drew Brees went to Purdue, and we all know the Hoosiers are Indiana University. But I guess if we accept Boilermakers in my family I can forgive Drew too.

Diehard Saints fans are blissful at the mere prospect of seeing their team in the big game for the first time in the 43 year history of the franchise. There’s a sense of victory in the air already. No matter what happens in Miami, New Orleans still wins.

People might suspect me of having divided loyalties, but that’s not the case. Sure, I grew up in Indy, but I was never a Colts fan. I’ve only come to appreciate football (insofar as I do) recently. I haven’t followed the Saints long enough or studied the league hard enough to appreciate the Manning dynasty. Although it’s an interesting backstory, I don’t personally care about the fact that Peyton Manning is from New Orleans. I’m for the Saints all the way. They are the only team I’ve ever known.

In fact, it’s kind of amazing to me that I’m actually excited about the Superbowl this year. For most of my life this has been a “dead” day, a time when everyone in the country seems to be preoccupied with a strange event that is absolutely meaningless to me.

This one’s different.

Not Just a Game

Just when I thought the whole sequence of events couldn’t get any stranger, in the midst of unpacking I was summoned via text message to Ashley’s grave where I partook in a bizarre quasi-religious sports ritual.

H. Ashley Morris

It was funny but also deadly serious. And it struck me:

It’s not just a game.

Meanwhile, up north, Aunt Karen & Aunt Ron say they will be wearing their “Helga Viking helmets” all weekend, so “beware of the power of the old Norwegians!”

Yes, I’ve got Viking blood in my veins. Yet these Saints have turned me against the old Nordic ways.

Serious stuff. Not just a game.

Aunt Karen wants to know: “Ya’ll doing that vodoo stuff down there??”

Oh yeah, Auntie K. We doing #whodat voodoo down here.

Michael and Howie ventured to Kiln, Mississippi, yesterday. On my advice they took some soil from Brett Favre’s boyhood home, mixed it with salt and wrapped in foil. Michael will be taking this little hex package to the Dome tonight for maximum proximity.

It’s not just a game.

They say this is the biggest contest the Saints have ever played in the history of the franchise — which, coincidentally, is the same age as me.

I can find no better words for today than what Ashley wrote three years ago upon getting the biggest damn fleur de lis tattoo you’ve ever seen:

Pride in a city, pride in a team.

Where does the team end and the city begin? These days, who knows.

It’s not just a game.

Who-dat nation is everywhere, thanks to the flood.

Our “leaders” have abandoned us.

People think we’re idiots…but we fight back. Hard.

We know what’s important, and they’re trying to rip it away from us.

But nothing is more important to us than our city, and our team. We will carry it with us always.

We are New Orleans.

We are the New Orleans Saints.

Geaux Saints. Win this one for Ashley. Who dat!

Saints Metaphor

I was listening to WWL and WBOK yesterday. These two talk-radio stations could not be more different in so many ways. And yet the theme was the same on both — the Saints as a metaphor for this city. Not a metaphor for what we actually are, but a metaphor for what we could be. A parable, an example, a model. And the message is so simple and basic. If we work together as a team we can succeed. We can achieve excellence. It’s like we’ve been beaten down so hard and for so long that very idea of success seems like a novel concept that can move grown folks to tears of joy.

Unfortunately the follow-up talk pretty much demonstrated that we have a long way to go. I could expand on that but I’m not in the mood.

Hoosierleanians

Jeff and Laura came over to watch the Saints game today. Like us, they’re Hoosierleanians — transplants from Indiana who’ve come to call New Orleans home. Only Jeff is also a radiologist, and he’s doing his residency right now, which means that he and Laura are living in Michigan for a whole year. They’re taking their vacation in New Orleans for a week or so, and Jeff did a couple job interviews, because they both really want to come back. They share a passionate love for this place.

I mentioned what Frank said yesterday, and Jeff echoed it. We are part of the reason they want to come back. And again I felt that sense of heaviness. I reminded Jeff that we still haven’t decided to commit or blow.

We need to do that soon. We decided to give it a year, and that year is almost up.

We watched the Saints lose while Warren Easton’s band practiced marching in the streets around our home.

Later, after the game was over and Jeff and Laura left, the neighbors across the street fired up the barbecue and started grilling all manner of burgers, chicken and pork chops. Dooley set me up with a plate of spicy chicken and pasta and some delicious potato salad. They were carrying on noisily until well after dark, but now the street is quiet.

Whole Lotta Downs

Today I went to see the Saints game with Michael. We rode our bikes to the Superdome. It was the first NFL game I’ve ever seen. The Bloody Mary was good and so was the alligator sausage. Pretty cool that the Saints won. That’s four straight wins after four straight losses, a crazy season so far. Also in this game they broke the team record for the number of first downs. Or maybe they just tied the record, I’m not sure. Anyway, it was a whole lotta downs. Michael told me I should put that in my blog, and he was the man with the extra ticket, after all.

But if you wanna read something really heavy and profound, check out Michael’s latest post, about building foundations on ancestors and children.

RCA Dome

In anticipation of tonite’s massively hyped match between the Saints and the Colts, I’d like to draw your attention to ROX #82: The RCA State.

In this episode, we visit the famed RCA Dome, scene of tonight’s action. Note that this was shot back in 1995. But it’s still relevant, dammit. Watch it if you don’t believe me.

Tune in here. (A lower-quality version is also available for those who don’t have the latest version of Quicktime.)

Could someone pass this on to Dave Zirin? I think he’d enjoy it.

Confessions of a Football Skeptic

I was born around the time of the very first Superbowl, and my parents named me after a star player on the Green Bay Packers. Yet for 40 years our nation’s most popular sport has remained a mystery to me. I never understood the game of football. I never wanted to understand it. I was never very athletic or competitive, and the whole culture of sports never appealed to me.

At family gatherings, the inevitable football game merely provided a soundtrack of unintelligible voices. I remember taking comfort in the authoritative tone with which sportscasters discussed matters I couldn’t comprehend. There’s a metaphor there — but I digress.

Growing up in Indiana, I couldn’t avoid learning to appreciate basketball, which is like a religion there. I never played it, but at least I understood it.

Football was another story. Sure, I got the basic concept, each team trying to move the ball in opposite directions. But that was about my limit. My few attempts to comprehend the game left me confused. (See ROX #82.) The rules are complicated. But then again I wasn’t really trying. I didn’t really care.

Over the years I latched on to various critiques of our sporting culture. You know the lines. It’s too macho. It’s too violent. It places too much emphasis on competition. And of course the standard line:

It occupies the populations, and it keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter. (Elie quotes Chomsky.)

These critiques are not without merit. But the truth is I couldn’t follow a football game anymore than I could read a book written in Chinese.

With my 40th birthday approaching and all the excitement surrounding the Saints, I decided it was time to make a real effort. I wanted to understand what so many of my fellow citizens were so crazy about. I was tired of being oblivious.

So back in October I went to see a Tulane game with DJ.

DJ Eats

It was my first time in the Superdome since I was eight years old.

At my prompting, DJ explained the concept of “downs.” I figured I would need a series of lessons to truly understand the game. But as it turned out, I didn’t. That was all I really needed to know: downs. Once I had that, everything snapped into place. Suddenly the game made sense.

I’ve been watching the Saints ever since. I was happy to discover that, yes, there are elements of the game which I find compelling. There is a certain aesthetic elegance that emergences from the play on the field.

And I sure picked a hell of a season to get into the game. I won’t go on about what this season meant to New Orleanians, or how what last night’s loss to Chicago meant, as others have done that much better than I could.

Instead, I’d like to reflect for a moment on those critiques I mentioned above. They have some merit. I certainly wish we brought the same level of analysis to serious social problems as we do to sports. Can you imagine if there was a whole section of the newspaper devoted to issues of conscience?

But when intellectuals levy criticism against the people for their devotion to a game, I feel it misses the mark.

Consider, for instance, Andre M. Perry’s article in Louisiana Weekly, which states:

Say, “Saints” three times and you forget about the rest of the world.

Saints! Saints! Saints!

Your synapses are clogged with the rue [sic] from yesterday’s gumbo.

Say “Who Dat?” three times and without realizing it you’ve just invited Allstate executives to the playoff party.

Saints mania has certainly induced an acute amnesia to the flamboyant violence of recent weeks. It’s unlikely there will be any large scale protests this weekend. If the Saints go on to Miami, the majority of the city surely won’t concern itself with the former residents of the St. Bernard Housing Development.

You don’t have to read between the lines too carefully to detect the scorn in Dr. Perry’s words. (Or perhaps I am being oversensitive.) Yet I wonder, what’s the point? Football fans are both numerous and passionate in these parts. Framing the argument this way only serves to alienate them from the cause. Rather than insult people for their excitement, wouldn’t it be better to emphasize a commonality? St. Bernard residents are Saints fans too, y’know.

Love of the Saints transcends race and class and brings New Orleanians from all walks of life together. Conversations about the team and the game take place all over town. To the extent that’s true, I think people of conscience shouldn’t reject sports culture out of hand, but embrace it. Enthusiasm for football does not preclude a social conscience. Sports fans can still get involved with “things that really matter.” Conversations about sports can lead to conversations about other things.

None of which is to suggest that I’ve become a giant fan of professional sports. I’m still skeptical. I could list a dozen well-justified reservations. But I did enjoy this season a great deal, and it’s helped me to connect a little bit with my fellow New Orleanians. For that, I am grateful.

Postscript: “The mayor sucks. The governor sucks. The legislature sucks. The president sucks. The only thing that doesn’t suck is that team. They brought hope to this city.” — lifelong fan Stan Gelpi in an ESPN story

Bring the Rage

It is truly humbling to serve as a vessel for community outrage.

The speech I gave Thursday — that wasn’t me. That was y’all. I was just channeling.

I had a double duty that weighed heavily on me. I spoke on behalf of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, and also as a friend of Helen Hill‘s. I felt bound to honor Helen’s memory, but also to represent my neighbors in Mid-City and my friends across the city.

Therefore, a paradox. Helen was not wrathful person. She was sweet and gentle. But you don’t march on City Hall to be sweet and gentle.

The organizers of the march had a list of very reasonable ideas to present, ideas which I support, but which seemed almost too reasonable.

Who would bring the rage?

In my mind, there’s only one reason to march on City Hall, and that’s to scare the bejeezus out the political class. It’s a public shaming ritual.

I didn’t know who all was speaking or what they would say until it actually happened. I certainly didn’t know that Nagin, Riley and the entire City Council would be standing at arm’s length from the podium. That didn’t make it any easier for mild-mannered me, but I didn’t really care either.

Still, I had deep misgivings about my prepared speech. Would it be too angry? Would it come off as a crazy rant? Would it strike a discordant note with the other speakers?

There’s no joy in any of this, but there is a certain grim satisfaction in knowing that it all came together right. I found myself a key instrument in a symphony of voices. It was a symphony of pain, alas. But there was harmony.

Helen G.

Saundra Reed

Me

Glen Davis Andrews

Nakita Shavers

Karen Gadbois

Great photos by dsb nola

That’s truly humbling.

I noticed that, across the board, black speakers addressed personal responsibility and white speakers addressed government responsibility. Make of it what you will, I found it interesting.

The words of my speech came not from me but from the community, from my neighbors and in particular from the local blogosphere. It was a product of community intelligence. Therefore it’s no surprise that local bloggers have been giving me good reviews. As I said, there’s no joy in this, but since I was so uncertain, there is comfort in the affirmation. Thank you all for the support. It means a lot.

But what really surprised me was when Juanita, the cleaning lady at work, stopped me in the lobby Friday morning. She saw me on the news and told me what I said was “all good.” Ditto for a group of laborers working to restore a house across Bienville.

Humbling.

If I had to do it again, or if I had been able to speak at greater length, I would have talked more about the failures of the D.A.’s office and about the need to address the root causes of crime. I would have emphasized that we don’t want an expansion of police powers or abuse of civil liberties. But it doesn’t really matter. No one will remember the body of this speech as time marches on. What they’ll remember is the soundbite that went around the world: “Shame on you.” (Picked up by all the TV channels but very few print articles.) What they’ll remember, hopefully, is that thousands marched on City Hall in the middle of a workday.

We said this march was not an end but a beginning. It’s up to each of us to make that true, individually and together. There’s a time to rage and a time to engage. And we’re going to have to get evangelical about it, because those who are engaged are engaged to the hilt.

Today new details on Helen’s killing make the front page of the Times-Picayune, renewing my sense of horror and sorrow. New details are also emerging on Cheryl Nitzky, details like her name, which wasn’t known when they found her body. She was 23, from Florida, and she was beaten to death and hidden under a rug in the Lower Nine just before the new year. That story’s buried on B-8. I really don’t know what to say about this.

And tonight, the Saints play the Eagles. It is surpassing strange indeed when I’m quoted in a sports article. From today’s Washington Post:

“People are feeling helpless and there is a feeling of despair and anger,” said Bart Everson, a multimedia artist and friend of Helen Hill, a filmmaker whose murder last week shocked the city and helped spark Thursday’s march. “It’s anger that drives people to march to City Hall and say ‘I’m tired of it.’ ”

One of the great fears people seem to have is that the rest of the country thinks New Orleans has recovered from the storm. This is fed partly by the Saints’ season and by the fact that the pictures everybody sees show that glass has been put back in the windows of the downtown buildings, a cosmetic repair. They worry there also is a national assumption that 15 months after Katrina left, the city should be back to normal. After all, how much time does it take?

He also quotes Michael Homan. It’s a good article. It actually brought tears to my eyes. And it’s on the sports page.

I can’t link to Les Carpenter’s story without also linking to Ashley’s meditation on real leadership, which sums up better than I could what we’ll be feeling while watching the game tonight. Like Alan said, “the only organization serving our mental health is the NFL.” Lord knows we need it.

All Saints Day

Today is the day when the Saints return to the Superdome. I think everybody who lives in New Orleans is pretty happy about that, even football-skeptical folks like myself. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement, since so many people seem to pin so much on this team. But even as we celebrate, we’ll keep things in perspective.

To those outside the city, even if you’re not a football fan, I recommend tuning in to Monday Night Football and checking it out. Not for the game so much as the spectacle and commentary surrounding it.

More reasons to celebrate: It’s Herb Reith’s birthday today. He and Jenny came and visited us over the weekend. They are some mellow, laidback people, character traits which I have come to appreciate more and more. Also, thirteen years ago today Xy and were manacled together in unholy matrimony.

Saint Bush

People in New Orleans are getting excited about Bush. No, not George W. Bush — Reggie Bush. He’s some sort of new football guy for the Saints that people are hailing as the team’s savior, even the city’s savior. It is surely the height of foolishness for me to opine on a subject of which I am so clearly ignorant (namely, sports) — but if there’s one piece of wisdom I’ve garnered over in my years here, it’s this: Never get your hopes up about the New Orleans Saints. As soon as you start thinking they can win, your hopes will be crushed.