But the difference between what we experience living here and what the Saints have done this season is that with life in the city, there is no end date, no giant trophy, no thrill of victory or agony of defeat. There will be no ribbon-cutting ceremony where it is declared that we're finished, New Orleans is all fixed and it's beautiful. Neither will there be a sad day where they turn out the lights and say it's over, it's done, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here.
Post-flood New Orleans is not like sports in the sense of a final victory or defeat at the end of the season. It's like sports in the sense of being the perpetual underdog, and being unified and driven by our shared mission. And if you think of it that way, the Saints have given us the best thing they could have given us. They gave us hope, they gave us unity, and they gave us something even better to look forward to.
Because it's the struggle that is important. There is a magic that imbues to the perpetual underdog that is unavailable to the routine winner. We, the City, will never be declared the winner...there's really no such thing. But we will never really lose. It will never be over. We will have days of glory and days of despair, but there will always be more games. There will always be next year.
But isn't it specifically because life is a constant struggle with no satisfying moment of redemption that we should be allowed to experience at least the emotional gratification of success as sports fans?
Sports fandom is ultimately a fantasy that we all give.. I think.. a little too much power as a metaphor. I know I certainly do. For example, had the Saints indeed won yesterday, I am certain I would not be sitting here this morning. I was prepared to declare life as we knew it officially over and revel in the post-apocalyptic morass until my corporeal self expired.. probably within the week. If a Saints Super Bowl appearance isn't your classic opportunity for a "From Hell's heart I stab at thee" moment I don't know what is. I'm not joking. Yesterday was a glorious opportunity to destroy this rotten world by fire. What a bummer it was to find out that the rapture was snowed in.
And yet here I am again.. in this same place trying to make sense of it all once more. I remind myself that life as we know it already ended in August 2005. The fact that our very real post-apocalyptic morass is distinguished from the muddling life of mediocrity that existed before only by the thousands of displaced disrupted or ruined lives and the dwindling hope for relief does not speak well for continued eschatological enthusiasm. Still I have to wonder. If life really is ultimately this disappointing, does it really make sense to, as Ray says, relish the role of the underdog who perpetually looks to "next year" with the not-so-suppressed knowledge that "next year" never really comes. I don't know. Right now I don't feel like waiting a year to find out.