Congratulations to New Orleans

We all watched the Super Bowl (or at least I did). We saw what happened. Indy jumped out to an early lead, then their defense let them down as Drew Brees completed pass after pass after pass. Clinging to a one TD lead, the Saints effectively clinched the title by picking off Peyton Manning and returning it for a touchdown. One more defensive stop, and the Saints had done it. What was so impressive was that the Saints won with such a one-dimensional team. Their special teams did nothing special, although the average starting field position did favor the Saints considerably. Their running game was only o.k. And aside from the one interception, big as it was, their defense did not look particularly great. They had trouble stopping the run, and they got no pressure on Peyton Manning. Their only strength was their amazing passing game. Against a similarly constructed team, however, that one dimension was enough. This season has shown that passing teams tend to do much better than running teams, and the best passing team in the league (New Orleans was #1 in the NFL in scoring this season) won the Super Bowl. Congratulations to them.

The question is, are we making too big of a deal out of their victory? To be sure, every city rallies behind its sports teams, reveling in their victories and suffering in their defeats. One of my favorite aspects of sports is the way in which they unite communities. Cities and towns are bonded together by the goings on of their sports teams. This will be even more evident in the upcoming Olympics, as medal counts are created to show which country is doing the best, as if to say that the merits of the country have some effect on the individual performances of its athletes (probably not objectively true).

Every once in awhile, a team comes along that is so dynamic and attractive that they become “America’s team.” This is what happened with New Orleans this season. Everyone was rooting for New Orleans to win as a means to redeem the city, maybe even the country, after Hurricane Katrina. Is that fair? I say no, and that this a dangerous path for us to be going down. Katrina taught us some important lessons. The biggest may be just how unprepared we are for meteorological destruction in parts of this country. New Orleans was screwed over, first by Mother Nature and then by FEMA. To look at this Super Bowl title and say “everything is all right” is wrong. It would seem to gloss over the many problems the city faced and continues to face. Perhaps its biggest, the psychological scar left upon New Orleans, is now gone, but many real problems still remain. A Super Bowl title will not fix this.

The Saints were an excellent team this season. They deserved to win the Super Bowl not because of their city’s history but because of the merits of the team themselves. Ascribing more to the team than that runs the risk of allowing this victory to slow down the real changes the city and this country need. If the Super Bowl trophy brings an influx of tourism to the state of Louisiana, then this victory will have truly helped to change things for New Orleans. But if all it does is make us complacent, then it may yet turn out to be a hollow victory. Let’s hope for the former.

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