Special Saints yarmulke and black and gold beads with fleur-de-lis atop Times-Picayune
While most everyone woke up this morning thinking only of the game, I had other responsibilities. I was supposed to be announcing the Krewe of Carrollton parade at historic Gallier Hall. It was my duty to welcome the fourth oldest parading organization to the streets of New Orleans on behalf of the Honorable Mayor C. Ray Nagin and the City Council. I dressed in my tuxedo with special fleur-de-lis studs and cuff links and wore a special black and gold fleur-de-lis that hung from a a pair of gold beads. Just for special consideration I also wore a special suede yarmulke (skullcap) to keep me connected to my Jewish community here and in Cleveland, where I lived for almost two years following the Hurricane Katrina diaspora. It took me less than 20 minutes to make the drive from my home, park and walk into the building that formerly served as the New Orleans city hall. The day was crisp, the crowd downtown was sparse and everyone enjoyed the Mardi Gras spirit with popular Saints songs interspersed with Carnival tunes on the loudspeakers there. I gave deejay Charles "Bam Bam" Belonge (which is pronounced Buh-LONG-jay) a special CD of several other songs he was lacking, which he eagerly played and asked if he could keep. In the spirit of Carnival and the kinsmanship I felt with him and everyone else who was hoping for a Saints victory I agreed. It seemed forever before the parade arrived, but an hour and a half after they started, they were there. I announced the parading units and floats as they passed by with the theme "It's a Small World," but as soon as the trailing police and fire units had made their way past the announcer's booth, I was on my way home, looking to park myself in front of my TV for the duration of the game. I kept my yarmulke on throughout the game, prayed and hung tough as the Saints pulled away from the Colts in the second half. No sooner had the game ended, then I was off to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter sans my yarmulke. It would have been yanked from my head in a flash. There is no doubt I was the only person walking in the masses of humanity wearing a tuxedo, but I didn't care. The Saints had won the game and given the citizens of the city and the entire Gulf South - some still living afar - a redemption beyond any they could have envisioned four and a half years ago in the wake of those dark, swirling floodwaters. Pride in the individual team members and the way they persevered in the face of their greatest challenge is to be expected. But the team gave back to the city more than a simple trophy. They gave them hope and promise and a reason to keep fighting back as recovery efforts go on. The smiles and elation of the crowd were not fueled by alcohol tonight. They were fueled by an uncommon love for our city and what it means to live here. The Bible tells us that Moses and the Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years. The Saints, lovable losers for decades, had suffered for 43 years and had only managed a few shots at post-season play, those coming only in the last two decades. Tonight we won it all and in so doing froze a moment in time that will forever be remembered as a victory of spirit and purpose. To all of those naysayers who questioned why New Orleans should be rebuilt after the storm, I offer them a picture of Drew Brees holding high the Vince Lombardi trophy with a smiling Sean Payton looking on. It means more to us than a win on the scoreboard. It is our redemption and a shining symbol of what we have endured and what can be achieved with drive, determination and guts. Who Dat!