Black and Gold Superbowl – a suffering fan’s perspective – Part One

February 12, 2010
Superbowl XLIV

Now in Miami, The final game awaits us, Is it just a dream?

The clock ticked away, taking an hour or so to get from 0:55 to 0:00. If there was the sound of a gun to signal the end, I never would have heard it. If this were Paris or London when they announced the Second Great War was over or if this were East Berlin as the Wall fell down, I’d have never known the difference. The cacophony of jumping, yelling, excited people – grown men and women, for god’s sake – drowned out any possible indication of sound that the game was over.

The French and British had waited only 6 years. The East Germans, well, they had waited roughly 45 years for their moment. So, too, had we waited for a moment that our older generation dreamed about and our friends and neighbors hoped and prayed for but that every man, woman and child knew would never come. 44 years of wanting, lacking, hoping, despairing. 44 years of watching, waiting, building up hopes only to watch those hopes destroyed each and every year. The merciful years were the ones we got our hopes dashed early. That way we didn’t have to get our hopes aroused for nothing. We’d be out of contention by week 3 or so, and we wouldn’t have to pretend we had a shot. The WORST were the ones where they’d let us hang around until the final week before giving us the “good try, you’ll get ‘em next time” notice. Thank god I’m only 30, so I missed out on the first 14-21 years of misery.

Since coming back to reality, I have been constantly asked “how was it?” and “how do you feel?” and to tell the truth, I’m too exhausted, too emotionally drained to be able to reproduce the feelings in a concise sentence to these questions. Being at a Superbowl – well, that’s one thing. Being there for the Saints’ first ever shot at the title is a completely new level. The sheer range of emotional roller coaster this game could be, the mental baggage of waiting so long, the knowledge that this meant so much to an entire city – maybe an entire Nation – of fans. No, this can’t just be a one sentence response.

“Yeah, it was great.”

I had been ready for it once. Three years ago, the Saints had played the Bears for the NFC Championship. I knew they were the better team, and I fully expected they’d be in the Superbowl that year against the Colts. I didn’t go to Chicago for that game, because I figured if I went to one playoff away game, it had to be the Superbowl. The letdown from watching them lose that game three years ago was tough.

So, watching the Saints – clearly one of the top 3 teams throughout the season – battle Minnesota (another of those 3) in another NFC Championship game, I had already decided, based on my decision three years prior, that I would buy a Superbowl ticket. But the win had to happen first. We had to get there. I needed to see it written down or blasted across the TV to make sure I wasn’t dreaming (the Saints are in the Superbowl!). The Saints were the perennial letdown machine. What better way to let us down again than to get as close as possible (overtime in the NFC Championship, how close can you get?) before dropping the aforementioned better-luck-next-time bomb on us.

This ain’t ya daddy’s Saints.

But we knew. Every one of us felt it was different this time. No joke, no exaggeration. Every previous season, you were anxious. Not because you weren’t sure what was going to happen. The Fates had told you each year that they were bound to lose. The anxiety was watching a horror movie where you know the good guy’s gonna bite the dust, but you don’t know how it’s going to happen yet. The anxiety was waiting for that Saints’ fumble, that blown coverage, that last-minute, drive-killing sack, that incredible come-from-behind-in-the-4th-quarter drive by the opposing team (damn you, Joe Montana, damn you. And Steve Young too!). But not this time.

I never had anxiety this entire season. Except at the end of the NFC Championship, with Brett Favre in field goal range and less than a minute on the clock. Even then, it wasn’t fear or anxiety. It was just the please-I-hope-they-pull-it-through, down on my knees as if I could somehow bend the universe to my will and pull the Vikings down, desperate hope that something would happen. But not the anxiety. This ain’t ya daddy’s Saints.

The flight to Miami was lacking any true fans – when I use “fan,” I mean it as a shortened version of “fanatic.” Coming from San Francisco, I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the Central Time Zone origins of the opposing sides in the upcoming game. Once the plane landed, however, everything changed. Like mosquitoes during summer in Louisiana or like airport security guards if your name is Mohammed, you were engulfed by the presence of them.   Similar to flip-flops, which were named for the noise they make as they pass by, was the Who Dat Nation, which could be heard pervasively from that moment on. The ubiquitous battle cry could be heard, sometimes loud and sometimes quiet, everywhere from Miami Beach to Ft. Lauderdale. To tell the truth, by Monday I could have almost phased out the sound altogether as background noise if I weren’t attuned to it like a bird listening for the call of my species.

WHO DAT in the airport. WHO DAT mildly exclaimed as two strangers walked by in the street.  WHO DAT yelled in loud, raucous, alcohol-induced, Turret’s-like bursts.  WHO DAT, WHO DAT, WHO DAT if groups of three or more of this newly discovered homo quisestexclamans species happened to pass within close enough proximity to each other.   Like two flocks of birds, the groups would merge, crying their species’ two-syllable anthem before flying away, each toward its original migration destination. More meaningfully, WHO DAT as two old acquaintances looked at each other in amazement, the tone that of mild disbelief, each one thinking “are we really here for the Superbowl?” Suspend the disbelief for just a few more days.

Sun Life Stadium

Is this the closest we'll get? Almost lost in the fog of my dream, ahead stood my goal, ever I reached for her, ever I was denied

We all know what’s about to happen, don’t we?  We’ve seen this show before.  The closer Sunday came, the closer we got to the stadium, the nearer we were to handing over our ticket for entrance, the more we wondered aloud to each other and quietly to ourselves in our own private dread: How far into the stadium would they actually let us go before dropping the news. “Sorry, folks, we were just pulling your chain. We’re not really letting the Saints go the Superbowl. You fellas must be joking, right?” This must be a cruel joke, right? Letting us get as close to the Superbowl as to see it and smell it and hear it before dropping the better-luck-next-time bomb on us. Only it wasn’t a joke.

Believe DAT.

To be continued…