It looks like we’ll probably have a Saints season this fall after all.
As I write this, the pundits are weighing in on what the shortened pre-season will mean to teams around the league. This, I take it, indicates that NFL owners and players are close to resolving their differences.
New Orleans would be bereft, indeed, without its annual opportunity to bleed black and gold.
I don’t doubt that, absent a fall Saints schedule, the 610 Stompers would manage to swing a season beyond the Superdome… an opening off-Broadway, say. Or that Whistleman or the Pope couldn’t find alternative stages for their fan fare. (For me, both are far more entertaining than Boudreaux or Hugo.)
The rest of us, however, might be hard-pressed to find ways to spend our Sunday afternoons. You can only rent a paddleboat in City Park so many times.
Don’t ever doubt, however, that we would survive a preempted NFL season. With flair.
Remember Ain’t bags in the midst of the Saints’ 1980 14-game losing streak?
Remember the rollicking street crowds (sans parades) of Mardi Gras in 1979, the year of the police strike, when we weren’t supposed to have one?
Remember revelers cavorting in the mud whenever thunderstorms drenched Jazzfest?
New Orleans is a city of events. If we don’t have one, we create one. Where else would guys dress in drag for a Red Dress Run (coming Aug. 13)? Or people gather for a human Running of the Bulls (July 9)? Or a crowd of Roller Girls skate down Royal Street?
New Orleans also is a place where people seem to make good times even during bad times. I give you refrigerator art after Hurricane Katrina.
If the NFL season is cancelled, we’ll find a way to play.
I was reminded of that on Saturday night during another evening of football. Make that futbol. Stewart and I headed to Finn McCool’s to watch the U.S. play Mexico in soccer’s North and Central American Gold Cup final.
An hour before the game, the SRO crowd already spilled out the doors and into Banks Streets, hundreds of people jostling good-naturedly for buckets of iced-down beers and a perch near one of a dozen screens, including a shaky sheet-and-projector concoction on the sidewalk.
We were older by a couple of decades than most of the fans there, but the kids proved kind to the geriatrics. Sports do seem to level all playing fields, and soon we were chatting away with a guy who works at Stennis Space center and a girl down from the University of Southern Mississippi.
We traded high fives with an exuberant guy wrapped in an American flag, shared plastic baskets of barbecue nachos and dished the U.S.A. lineup and strategy.
When the game started, everyone stood up to sing along to the national anthem. Then, when the U.S. scored early, hundreds of us rose as one, shouts of “USA! USA!” filling the smoky room like thunder.
Unfortunately, the home team went on to lose 4 to 2 in a fast-paced game with as many turnovers and as much action as any Saints-versus-Packers regular season game. OK, it was no Superbowl, but that was our national team out there in front of 93,420 screaming soccer fans at the Rose Bowl.
And the beers at Finn McCool’s were $2.
When Saints season starts, I will be in my season-ticket seat, my $8 beer in hand, cheering on the home team. I, too, bleed black and gold.
But if the NFL talks break down, I don’t worry that we New Orleanians will be confined to boredom in our living rooms.
Wherever we decide to take the party, though, get there early if you want a good seat.