And the Beat Goes Marching On

Saints or Chicago Sinners? I was being torn apart. White shark jaws of indecision ripped at my brain and heart.

Should I go with an old love or a new passion? My beloved Chicago Bears, 135px-Chicago_Bears_helmet_rightface.png they of the George Halas/Sid Luckman/Bronko Nagurski days, or Reggie Bush’s Boys from the Katrina-torn New Orleans?

Bullies who play in wind-whipped, snow-savaged Soldier Field under wide-open Windy City skies, or finesse guys from the Big Easy who frolic in the Superdome — a domed stadium for Pete’s sake.

Monsters of the Midway pitted against people who parade in freaky costumes and a place where men wear long strands of beads at Mardi Gras time. Guys wouldn’t have tried that in my neighborhood, Lent or no Lent.

A domed stadium? Hey, I played football in all kinds of weather. Why can’t the Saints? Then again, it’s the same Superdome where thousands of people suffered in neglect 135px-New_Orleans_Saints_helmet_rightface.png after the 2005 hurricane blew into town like a horde of conventioneers who didn’t know when to stop?

Even hardy Chicagoans who braved blowing snow Sunday must have felt something for a team — from where? — that arose from the dead and last year’s 3-13 record.

Sue and I just returned from the Crescent City, as it’s known, where 17 months ago around 250,000 of its citizens fled their wrecked homes to God knows where— maybe even Texas — leaving a partially wrecked city and a loser team. Not many years ago fans covered their heads with paper bags in shame and dubbed themselves the “Aints.”

I was amazed during my early January visit when I spotted all those “Saints in the Super Bowl” signs in the French Quarter, which was mostly unscathed by Katrina. I hadn’t seen that kind of stone-blind confidence since Mondale ran for president against Ronald Reagan.

I remembered walking past all those voodoo dens so I wasn’t surprised when I heard that Saints fans were sticking pins in Teddy bear dolls.

The town was hanging onto its Mississippi riverbank for dear life, trying to rebuild, and still had some wild dream of (ha) even getting into the playoffs? Yet there they were, the Bush Boys on TV, facing My Bears. My family gathered in the living room. Who to cheer for? How to sort it out?

You can take the boy out of Chicago but you can’t take the Chicago out — blah, blah, blah. I loved Da Bears, even during their long-gone glory days. But my heart went out to New Orleans Saints, who came marching in out of Louis Armstrong Land and St. James Infirmary. So in a stew of indecision, I sat down to watch and decided to let emotion make my pick. Fans of the game often start watching a game and somehow, like reading a menu, the choice comes to them, unbidden. They just know.

I’m not sure just when it happened. But after Bush took a short pass from Drew Brees for an 88-yard touchdown, making one of his patented cutbacks and racing everyone to the end zone, I cheered for the Saints.

Well, maybe Brees should have thrown a few more passes to Bush, because today the Saints ain’t.

The Lake Pontchartrain Ponyboys got beat by the Lake Michigan Maulers, who now go on to the Super Bowl in Miami, where they won’t have a snowstorm or home crowd in their favor.

Which brings me to the horns of another dilemma. Son Barclay and brother-in-law Peter yelled their heads off as the Indianapolis Colts 135px-Indianapolis_Colts_helmet_rightface.png won an exciting game later Sunday against the New England Patriots. It was more thrilling than most Super Bowls.

My brother Bruce lives in Indianapolis, so should I cheer on my hometown Bears or Bruce’s guys, from a hick city a few hundred miles away in a hick red state with a transplant team that half the country still thinks is in Baltimore?

Indianapolis against Chicago in a Midwestern Super Bowl and will anyone outside the Indiana Bible Belt/Corn Belt or Chicago Graft Belt care? The Colts, by the way, are already touchdown favorites and that’s a point spread that could grow.

Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning, with his slingshot arm against the Bears’ Rex Grossman, who looks like he has to wind up like a steam threshing machine to fling a ball.

One of the most interesting aspects of the game is that for the first time, black men will be coaching both Super Bowl teams. When I was a kid there weren’t even any black players in the NFL — or Major League Baseball.

I’ll be for the Bruins, natch, unless I hear from my brother. (Bruce, I was just kidding about the hick town crack.)

Barney can be reached at 805-965-5205 or He writes a Tuesday on-line column, a Thursday commentary for the print edition of The Independent, and a Friday Barney’s Weekend Picks.

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