Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Games We Play

I promised myself I wouldn't do this, but I feel compelled.

Saints' mania has infected the city of New Orleans with the team's first ever trip to Super Bowl on the horizon. "Black and gold to the Super Bowl" is the rallying cry for the team and city, and it seems that Who Dat Nation has swelled in size overnight.

The unofficial Saints pep song, a remix of a Ying Yang Twins crunk classic, has been banging on the radio for days. Folks are lining up to purchase newspapers from the day after the Saints won their NFC Championship games. I'm pretty sure hotels in Miami are experiencing an amazing rush, and the Saints are the topic of conversation in every coffee shop and eatery in the region.

And, I can't help but wonder, why?

Look, I'm not trying to be holier-than-thou wet blanket in this whole exercise, but I can't shake the fact that something is wrong with this picture. People are crying in the streets, they want to remember the day for posterity, they are spending hundreds of dollars in a recession, and it's all because a corporation won a contest? Weird.

Notice how I worded that, "a corporation won a contest." That's what professional sports boils down to at its most basic level. Corporation doing battle with other corporation in regularly scheduled contests. It's like cheering for a hostile takeover, only if the takeover happened on television and didn't make you any money. Professional sports have no tangible benefit for society as a whole, yet some of us care about them more than we care about general elections. True, elections typically don't solve problems, but neither do Super Bowl victories.

I've only talked about these feelings with a few folks because voicing this type of sentiment in New Orleans right now is a good way to get looked at like an idiot. Plus, I'm not sure if I really have a valid point. As a few friends pointed out, it's good to have a distraction, something to rally around and support that makes us feel good even if we still have issues. A good friend from college compared it to celebrating the Fourth of July in the 'hood. Yeah, the American Dream might be a pipe dream in many poor neighborhoods for the entire year, but when the barbecue and fireworks start flowing, it's a lot easier to forget that fact.

I saw something on PBS the other day about the ability of human beings to adapt to adverse conditions and actually make themselves happy, even when the situation appears to dictate depression. It sprang to mind when I tried to dissect why it is people in a town as screwed up as my own can find so much joy in the accomplishments of a corporation that provides no tangible benefit to their lives. As some folks have said in interviews, when things are so horrible around you, you cling to whatever good news you can find, and use that for motivation and happiness.

I guess it's a matter of opinion whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Part of me wants to lash out at those folks who can find all this energy to cheer on a bunch of strangers, but can't be bothered to go to parent-teacher conferences for their kids, or sit down and go over algebra homework. I get more than pissed when I see how the Saints success is being spun as some sort of proof of New Orleans' revival after Katrina. Didn't this Saints team openly flirt with San Antonio immediately after the storm and only decide to stay in the state after receiving massive payments from the Louisiana taxpayers?

But, a part of me understands that people need distractions. Sure, those distractions can turn into a detriment, but that doesn't mean the solution is eliminating them completely. Just like with everything else in life, perspective is important. If loving the Saints gives folks the strength they need to keep moving in a city that appears stuck in neutral, then who am I to judge? How can I tell folks what types of mental games they should play to make their lives bearable? How can I deny them something that allows them to escape their lives of quiet desperation, if only for a few hours?

I'm not sure I have the right to deny people that, so I'll continue to keep my mouth shut when folks are proclaiming their love for every single "Who Dat".



LisaMJ said...

I see your point. I understand about people needing distractions and the concept that whatever makes you happy that isn't dangerous can't be so bad (though given the new data on concussions it certainly can be bad for players in the long run). However, don't forget, the Romans kept the masses in check by providing "bread and circuses."

Big Man said...


I didn't mean that whatever keeps people happy can't be bad.

I was posing the question of "Is this really bad, or am I tripping?"

I see both sides. My initial reaction was that people are going overboard. But, then I noticed that so people seem to be receiving some sort of serious emotional boost from this stuff, so I had to reconsider what I thought at first. I'm kind of in limbo, but leaning towards "These folks are tripping."

Anonymous said...
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Clifton said...

I can only speak for myself in this but I have been following the team since I was a little boy so I loved Sunday. It doesn't distract from what's actually going on in the city in my mind. On a broader scale, I think the team represents one of the only things associated with the city name that has a positive spin to it. There's always something negative that seems to go with growing up and living here. I think everybody is caught up in the one moment that we can say we are on top even if we don't have anything to do with it. We both know the everyday conditions are too rough for this to last that long. Give it a month or so.

Clifton said...

I came back to this post just to tell you that after watching and reading news stories the last two days, you had a stronger point than I gave you credit for.

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