Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It Can't Just Be About Football

Last night, the New Orleans Saints played the Atlanta Falcons in Monday night football. These are two teams in the playoffs, with legitimate chances to make the Super Bowl this year. They have quarterbacks who are or who have the chance to be legends in their respective cities and the league. Both have highlight reel making defenses, and both feature intriguing styles of play. The teams are divisional and sectional rivals, one with an intense, traditionally passionate fanbase and the other with an intense, passionate fanbase for college football that is switching gears to root for the local NFL franchise.

After last night's game, the Saints and Falcons have played twice, are 1 - 1 against each other for 2010, and post a combined score of 41-41. They have a chance to meet again in the NFC Championship game in several weeks. Rivalries, especially in the pros, don't often see better years than this one. (Especially a rivalry where one team owns a 8-2 regular season record over the other since 2006.)

In short, there is an awful lot of compelling topics surrounding this rivalry. But because the game involves the team from New Orleans, you just know it is going to be about more than the sport.

And of course, this year's "Finishing what Katrina Started" head-slapper comes from Falcons fans.

This is a terrible reflection on the many, many fine Falcons fans I know, who were Dirty Birds long, long, long before Matty Ice & Co started posting back-to-back winning seasons and Super Bowl aspirations. Some of my best memories are of watching the small television in the Burntstone Brewhouse as the Falcons defeated Minnesota and then played in their first Super Bowl; or watching the valiant NFC Championship game effort against Philadelphia from the Gnat's Landing porch on St. Simons Island. But, like all sports teams, some fans take it beyond the ribbing of good natured rivals and into the realm of the very, very personal.

As Cliff so rightly states, Katrina is off limits when trash talking. This is sports, people. Sports. I know it is important. I know it can be emotional. I know it is sometimes used as a metaphor for larger issues.

But "Hating America's Team After Hurricane Katrina" qualifies as Katrina-based smack talk. Expounding that point ("Yes, We're Still the Bad Guys In This Story") also qualifies as Katrina-based smack talk.

You'll notice that both posts have been deleted. Maybe someone at SB Nation figured out this was off-limits troll baiting (and after years of following SB Nation college football sites, I can believe that). Maybe some folks just want to hide their opinions, as if they didn't think New Orleanians had access to the internet. These are the kinds of things that get written or said when you don't think anyone who disagrees with you will read what you wrote or hear what you said.

Saints fans believe "it's OK to tack on the suffering of thousands and the devastation of decades to enhance the luster of your football title, but if someone else derides you for it, claim ownership of the tragedy and whine like hell," Godfrey writes. "This logic is ludicrous and almost insulting, but it's the brush Saints Nation has decided to paint their team with.

"If the Atlanta Falcons somehow capture a world title this season, my first order of business will be to take to the Internet and post a sobbing YouTube monologue that declares, 'I NEVER THOUGHT WE'D BOUNCE BACK FROM GENERAL SHERMAN. TONIGHT THIS CITY ROSE UP. WE'RE HEALED!'

"That's what I've learned from the New Orleans Saints - that any professional sports championship can be made to count even more if you've got a great, largely unrelated local tragedy to position it against.

That is disgusting. It is a shame some folks out there in "real America" are still not over the fact that New Orleans was flooded in a tragedy made worse by an ineffective government. It is a shame the city hasn't fully recovered, even five years later. I guarantee there are more folks in New Orleans unhappy with that fact than folks in in Atlanta.

It is a shame that some folks can't accept that tragedy happens in this country and that you're going to hear about it as long as the graves are still fresh, and the wounds are still visible. (We're still dealing with legislation for the September 11 Rescue Heroes, after all.) As a matter of fact, as far as defining American tragedies are concerned, most Americans haven't really heard word fucking one about New Orleans, Katrina, the Federal Flood and what passes for recovery. Posts like these, if they weren't hastily deleted, are simply evidence of that fact.

And these authors think they can play the "media victim" because occasionally a news organization will investigate some small part of what happened (and still happens) in New Orleans when doing background research for a sports story. When you're reporting on a team from New Orleans, and you talk to people who live in New Orleans, and you travel to New Orleans to watch and write about football games, you may run into a few stories about the storm, the flood and the recovery. They're kind of a big fucking deal down in New Orleans.

But, there is a disgusting cultural undercurrent in this country that likes to blame the victim. There is a ridiculous cultural undercurrent in this country that must draw lines in the sand and list everything in terms of "good guys vs. bad guys," even in sports. I can understand how Atlanta would be sensitive to the "bad guy" brush, after their former franchise quarterback was convicted of morally repugnant felonious behavior and spent time in prison.

It is a shame that it is spoiling a fine rivalry, during the best year of the rivalry.

Update: Of course, Jeffrey wrote about this yesterday.



Leigh C. said...

You've seen the Gambit's Bob krieger article they dug up from their deep dark past, right?


jeffrey said...

I don't understand why anyone would take down something they had published. If you put something out there for public consumption and people give you negative feedback you can either defend what you've written, acknowledge dissenting viewpoints, or apologize for offenses if need be. But what you can't do is un-say the thing once it's been said. To do so is lazy at best and cowardly at worst.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Leigh: what a great find.

Jeffrey: Again, I don't know who took down the posts. What I do know is that, in my experience, SB Nation has done a good job keeping things from becoming your average "Local Team Anonymous Vent" site.

I wonder if anyone could contact the editors and ask why the articles have been taken down.

bayoucreole said...

Love this post.

Leigh C. said...

Jeffrey, it's gotta be cached out there somewhere, not that I'm gonna hunt it down right now. 8-P

ALM said...

Well said!