Fair-weathered fans have always gotten on my nerves.
I prefer to stand along side the people who have gone through the trenches with me — the people who have known the depths of my despair.
But in this week that was total Saints mania, if I’m honest with myself, I have a confession. By my own definition, during this magical football season, I have become a fair-weathered fan.
In my family’s Mississippi living room, I grew up watching the Saints lose Sunday after Sunday. I vaguely remember watching when the half-footed Tom Dempsey kicked the longest field goal and the announcer lost his mind.
But mostly I remember watching the fans wearing paper bags. I remember watching a stadium dotted with scattered clusters of spectators, passionate about having a good time, but generally apathetic about the game.
From my Southern underdog perspective, I eventually recognized that at some level, many of us probably believed we didn’t deserve anything better than a team that won a few games every season.
But we were good at hoping – and imagining the party we would have some day.
We dreamed of the day when the Saints really did go marching in – and everyone else stood up and took proper notice.
Staying with the Saints through all those years of heartache required a special spirit. Like so many of you, I had it – way back then.
But somewhere along the way – unlike many of you diehards, and I’m not proud to admit this, I lost that spirit.
I got tired of hoping.
I grew up and moved away. For a number of years, I lived outside the South. I realized there were other teams easier to root for. Winning was, in fact, a lot more fun.
Sure, the Saints always had a piece of my heart — like anything that you love as a child will always have, but I spent my energy on other things.
This season revived childhood saintly hopes and dreams. I forgave the fair-weathered nature of enthusiasm all around (including my own).
The last two weeks have been such a lesson on how what happens on a sports field is sometimes more than a game. Sharing joy in a common cause with so many others builds kinship and creates common ground organically.
In middle school, this is about the little kid who knows more about the New Orleans Saints football team becoming the hero he’s never been before. At the office, this is about people who have never had much to talk about reliving the overtime on a Tuesday afternoon. At church, this is about a jazz quartet playing the final tune of the day, “When the Saints go Marching in” and a minister delivering a homily with the theme of “Who dat?”
This is about building community. More people feeling a part of a community is good for all of us.
Win or lose, Saints mania has been a beautiful thing.
This is about childhood hope rekindled.
This is about believing.