Saints or Chicago Sinners? I was being torn
apart. White shark jaws of indecision ripped at my brain and
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 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
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
I remembered walking past all those voodoo dens so I wasn’t
surprised when I heard that Saints fans were sticking pins in Teddy
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
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 won an exciting game later Sunday
against the New
England Patriots. It was more thrilling than most Super
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. He writes a Tuesday on-line column, a
Thursday commentary for the print edition of The Independent,
and a Friday Barney’s Weekend Picks.