It’s only day 4 after the call, or ‘no-call’ and it seems like it’s been forever.
There have been the cathartic calls for lawsuits, posting of billboards and costumes and memes galore. There is no doubt that Krewe du Vieux and the other satirical parades are racing to re-do floats to remain timely with biting humor.
As always, when there’s some group that’s been horribly wronged, there’s actually the ‘non-affected’ folks’ stages of non-grief. They agree with our anger (commiseration), they call for change (advocation), but soon, the aggrieved, if they keep hold of the issue, become seen as ‘whiny, cry babies, sore losers,’ by those without a stake (aggravation). I’m not sure if we’re there yet, but we’re closing in on it.
‘Get over it,’ ‘It’s just a game,’ ‘You shouldn’t have blown an early lead.’
Look mistakes happen. Bad mistakes happen. What’s maddening is the lack of a public mea culpa. Especially from the official who blew the call. He should apologize. He didn’t mean (I assume) to cost a team a chance at a Super Bowl. To cost one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time the chance to elevate his legacy. But, he should apologize.
It won’t change anything as far as the outcome. But, now, it’s all I need.
I don’t blame the Rams. They didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not even really mad at Falcons’ fans delighting in the team and city’s misery. You can’t dump on a fan base for nearly two solid years and not expect them to delight in your pain – the more painful, the better. I realize that blowing a Super Bowl on your own is much different than having one taken from you - but, pain is pain.
But you see, it isn’t just football. It really isn’t.
The day of the Super Bowl in 2010 was one of the most magical days in the history of our city. To quote Kermit Ruffins’ song (All I Want for Christmas is the Saints in the Super Bowl), it was bigger than Mardi Gras. It was. It’s not bigger than the institution of Mardi Gras. Not even close. But it sure the heck was bigger than Mardi Gras that year.
I’d never seen the town so awash, universally, in joy. See, I had been on the WWL-TV coverage team in Miami through that Friday, but I left Saturday to be home for the game. This is where I had to be.
I’d never seen anything like it. Every, single, neighborhood – every one – had a block party, or its version of one going. Poor neighborhoods, rich ones, ones still blighted from Katrina. Driving around town was a chore. You couldn’t go the speed limit, but you didn’t want to because then you’d miss the kids in Saints gear throwing the ball in the street with the large screen TV on the lawn. The barbecues, the balloons, decorations and bounce houses, the second line at Sunday Mass, the people wearing their jerseys to the mass.
You didn’t even have to watch the game to know how we were doing. Screams, hollers, cheers, moans were all audible from inside the sanctuary of your home. It was an entire-city, eight-or-so-hour tailgate.
Every major gathering spot was filled with a watch party. See. This isn’t Los Angeles where the team hasn't exactly taken hold in its recent return or New England where Super Bowl Sunday happens every year like the Boston Marathon.
The Saints – football – was a symbol of our rebuild. The team had never really been that good. Never elite. Now, it was. If the Saints could do it, so could we.
Yes, sports is not real life. Not real like real life problems. Yes, the Saints success only put a temporary balm on the many problems plaguing our city – things like crime, schools, bad roads, race relations – but, if only temporarily, we saw each other. You didn’t have to find a conversation starter with someone you would not normally have spoken to.
The aftermath was glorious too, but, even if the Saints had advanced to the Super Bowl this year, that outcome would not have been guaranteed.
It’s just that I wanted that – one more time.
I wanted that taste of pure joy once again. But that won't happen this year.
A mistake was made. A huge mistake. The official responsible needs to lose his job. He can’t referee another game, ever, certainly not a Saints game. Either he didn’t see it, or he didn’t think it was pass interference (and helmet-to-helmet), in which case he is not fit to be an NFL official.
Yes, it’s silly to still be thinking about the game. It’s silly that it’s that important. I have my three daughters and my wife to show me what’s really important and I’m so lucky to still have my two parents around.
That’s important. This is not. Not really. At least not if your name isn’t Sean Payton or Drew Brees or one of the hundred or so other players and employees who may not get this chance again.
As fans, we don't know if we'll ever get this chance again.
So, all I’d really like is an apology. From the official.
If the NFL issues one, it’s basically on his behalf. This wasn’t the NFL’s fault, except to the extent that it was bound to happen sooner or later and it did and there is no way to address it and… ummm.
A friend of mine said that several years ago, her daughter’s high school forgot to fill out or submit some paper work on PSAT tests to have the kids eligible for National Merit Awards, which can bring thousands of dollars in scholarship offers. Several of the kids in that class had scores that would have qualified. They were deprived of some honors and potentially thousands of dollars.
I’ll bet they got an apology.
Really. Nothing will change with the game and the outcome – nor should it (it should have Sunday, but that’s another story). It won’t even hurt the NFL to come out with a statement that an erroneous call prevented the Saints from a chance at a Super Bowl. Use the word chance. That works, because Aaron Donald could have muscled his way in for a block, or Will Lutz could have gone Cody Parkey or the snap could have been bobbled.
Most likely though, the Saints would have been in the Super Bowl and this town would have been electric for another two weeks.
We were deprived of that. All I really want is an apology.