Thursday, February 11, 2010
Mardi Gras season is upon us. It kind of snuck up, hidden behind the euphoria of Saints playoff and Super Bowl mania, but the parades have started to roll so here we go!
Jessica and I made the decision this year to join the Krewe of Muses, an all-female krewe that is famous for it's fanciful floats and throws. Read all about it here!
Happy Mardi Gras!!!!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Down on the Bayou where the mighty Mississippi kisses Lake Pontchartrain and spills into the Gulf of Mexico. There sits that jewel of the Southland. What the French lost to the British who gave it to the Spanish who lost it back to the French who sold it to America for….. Well, some folks say Jefferson conned Napoleon in a card game and won it for some jambalaya and a chicory coffee.
New Orleans, N’Awlins, the Crescent City, the Big Easy, the northern capitol of the Caribbean, Groove City. Man, they have things down there you wouldn’t believe. A mythic place of Mardi-Gras and mumbo, voodoo and the moss-covered alligator-spiked pathways of back-country swamp drained and sprinkled with gris-gris dust to house a wild, unruly population. A city with they own cuisine, they own architecture, they own music..streets with names like Dorgenois and Tchoupitoulas.
People in crazy costumes parading talkin ’bout “throw me somethin’ mistah”, dressed like Indians chanting ’bout, “Madi, Madi-Cudifiyo”, sittin in the young twilight on the ‘poach’ of they camelback shotgun house eatin po’ boys bout to ‘make’ groceries for the crawfish ‘burl’ they gon’ have on ‘Sadday’. They sing through horns down there you know. Yeah Padnah! Something called Jazz, started by a cornet man named Bolden. They say Bolden could play so loud the sun was scared to set. Some folks say the air is so thick down here you, can eat it with a spoon.
Drummers drag rhythms in dirgey solemnity down neighborhood streets as horns moan, mock and moo. Man, hot notes echo against the sky with such weight as to be objects. Objects of sorrow so passionately played that the dead begin to cry. Then that trumpet calls and everyone falls in behind the band for a second line parade and those musicians get to hollerin and shoutin and folks get to struttin and steppin and the living let go of the dead and sorrow soon becomes laughter. In New Orleans, we bury our dead above ground.
They always walk amongst us…. but that music. It always ends happy. So when a strong rain brings angry winds howlin’ down the Mississippi or up from the Gulf, those misty winds carry the dreams of ghosts, yes, but not just the goblins of Marie Laveau the voodoo queen, or the tortured spirits of the legendary lascivious lovelies of Storyville sporting houses, or even the undead demons of corrupt politicians who have steeled our idealism over three colorful centuries. They also brings the spirits of Saints, of those who have lived here in quiet dignity and sanctified religiosity, of those who have raised kids in the shadow of the St. Louis Cathedral and Sundayed in Jackson Square or of the River Walk lovers holding hands… of many who have fallen in love here, proposed here, honeymooned here. Not just the howling ghouls of the frat-boy drunks on Bourbon street, but they also bring the angels of all who have romanced in and with this beautiful land on the Delta.
Yes, the ‘haints become more famous but the Saints endure. Where were you when 85,000 people gathered in the last open seated stadium in professional football to witness John Gilliam run our very first kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown? When Tom Dempsey kicked that 63 yard field goal with half-a-right foot? When Tom Fears, Hank Stram, and Jim Mora prowled the sidelines? Were you there when Howard Stevens, Danny Abromowicz, Rickey Jackson, and Archie Manning donned the black and gold? Ahhh..those New Orleans Saints! Confined to a purgatory of their own making looking for the fast track to hell. Maybe a brand new dome would appease the gods of football—a Superdome.
Fathers bounced kids on their knees while explaining how we would certainly blow our 30 point halftime lead by game’s end…..and the Saints did not disappoint. Where you there when the Dome Patrol brought us to the upper chambers of purgatory in search of playoffs, playoffs..playoffs? Yes, ‘haints become famous but Saints endure. Just ask Deuce. If 4 years is a long time: (your high school years, your college days, the length of the Civil War..WWII)…then 43 yrs is an eternity. You ever wait for something so long that waiting for it becomes the something? You ever see grown folks put bags over their heads in public, covering up to hide from themselves like an old alcoholic who won’t admit? We can’t help it. We’re with our Saints even when we ‘aint. New Orleans people are stubborn and hate to leave home.
Down here, people like to brag about how they handle tragedy. Epochal hurricanes like Betsy and Camille are discussed as if they’re people. “Betsy was bad but Camille, ‘Lawd Have Mercy’, the water was up here to my neck.” Nobody brags on Katrina. She swept through here like death on a high horse. Those flood waters seemed to run all the demons, goblins, AND saints away forever. There goes old Jean Lafitte the pirate relocated to Houston, there goes old Jelly Roll Morton off somewhere in Memphis with that diamond still sparklin in his front tooth.
But quick to return is the unbending will and irrepressible spirit, sin-dipped in Tabasco sauce and spiced with file’ in possession of an unshakable, unbreakable soul that Louis Armstrong first announced to the entire world through a red hot trumpet, that Danny Barker broadcasted on a burnished banjo, and Sidney Bechet shouted and screamed through a scorching horn said to be a soprano saxophone. And here comes that chastened Noah’s arc of a dome rising from ignominy to become again a beacon of community. And, oh yes, they are still down here marching in those funny-named streets blowing history AND the present moment through singing horns. And people still dance with abandon, exuberance, and unbridled human feeling because that music tells ‘em “what has been may be what is, but what will be cannot possibly be known.”
We live the moment. Laissez les bon temps rouler! –Let the Good Times Roll. I think I hear that trumpet calling the children of the Who Dat Nation home–not Gabriel’s or the horns that blew down the walls of Jericho–that jazz trumpet conjuring up the spirit world with a Congo Square drum cadence. Ghosts, goblins, and ‘haints aggravate. Saints congregate. I hear them now bringing that 43yr second line to a glorious crescendo. “Who Dat Say What Dat When Us Do Dat?” Its like waiting 43yrs to hear somebody saya ‘I Love You’ back. And they do. Let the tale be told bout how the black and gold won the Super Bowl.And those jazzmen still play sad songs but they always end happy…..they always do.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I'm posting the text of an ESPN article below. More for me than anyone else, but read it if you haven't already done so. Am still just so freaking excited!!!!!
You’re going to hear a lot about Sean Payton being a gambler in the coming days. Don’t believe a bit of it. A gambler is someone who is taking a 50-50 (or less) shot. Payton is not that dicey. He’ll only get risky when he’s convinced the odds are slanted heavily in his favor. So how the heck do you explain Payton’s choice to have a rookie punter try an onside kick to start the second half of the first Super Bowl in franchise history?
Throw in the fact you’re playing the mighty Indianapolis Colts and the even mightier Peyton Manning and the odds of such a play working couldn’t have been more than what? 10 or 20 percent? Tops? "We felt during the week it was more than a 60 or 70 percent chance," Payton said. "We felt not [just] good, we felt real good." That play, more than anything else that happened Sunday night, is going to symbolize how the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium. Throw in Payton’s decision to challenge a two-point conversion that initially was ruled a failed attempt and a choice to let kicker Garrett Hartley, who is only slightly more than a rookie, kick a 47-yard field goal near the end of the third quarter and you’ve got a lot of big chances. Enough to subject a coach to months, maybe years, of second guessing if he doesn’t hit on most of them.
If you want to get technical, Payton was three out of four on big chances. He also gambled on a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line when he called a run by Pierre Thomas instead of passing or kicking a field goal near the end of the first half. Thomas was stopped short of the goal line, but that was the only gamble Payton missed on all night and it turned out that it didn’t really cost him anything. His defense, which was built on gambling, bailed him out and the Saints got the ball back in time for Hartley to hit a 44-yard field goal as the second quarter ended and cut Indianapolis’ lead to 10-6. That set the stage for the decision that changed the fate of the entire hard-luck New Orleans region and will live forever in Super Bowl lore.
In the locker room, Payton told his team he was going to pull one of the biggest surprises in Super Bowl history. Shock the world, but not the Saints. Not if you really know what Sean Payton’s all about. He’ll take some chances, but only when he knows there’s a decent shot they’ll work. "Everyone knows that Sean Payton plays hard and aggressively," New Orleans offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said. "He plays to win the game." "That gives us confidence when he does something like that because it shows us how much confidence he has in us," linebacker Scott Fujita said. It gives some of the Saints confidence, but Payton’s dare was something the Colts and the rest of the world didn’t see coming.
And, remember, I said only some of the Saints. Payton told Thomas Morstead, who had been practicing onside kicks for all of 10 days, that he’d be doing it to open the second half. "For 20 minutes, I sat at my locker terrified," said Morstead, who handled only punting duties in college. "Not worried, terrified." Morstead said he came out of the locker room and worked on his punting as the teams warmed up for the second half. He got so caught up in the bluff that he almost forgot to practice kickoffs. He squeezed one in right before it was time to do the real thing. "I showed them the same thing I’d done on every kickoff all season long -- deep and to the right hash," Morstead said. "That’s all anybody’s seen out of me." Well, anybody who wasn’t at a Saints practice the last 10 days.
What Morstead did next was try to make sure he kicked the ball at least 10 yards and put some backspin on it. That’s exactly what happened. After a scramble, New Orleans safety Chris Reis was ruled to have recovered the ball. "What we were trying to do was create another series [for the offense]," Payton said.
Another series in which the Saints scored the first Super Bowl touchdown in franchise history on a 16-yard pass from Drew Brees to Pierre Thomas. And a series less for Manning and the Indianapolis offense to work the magic they had all season, but didn’t really have Sunday night. Yeah, the Colts came right back down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead, but the damage had been done and the tone for the rest of the game had been set by the onside kick. Payton followed that gamble by taking another, letting Hartley kick a 47-yard field goal to cut the deficit to a single point.
What you need to know here is that Payton took a gamble on his field goal kickers earlier this season. With Hartley suspended for the first four games of the season for testing positive for a banned dietary supplement, the Saints signed veteran John Carney. He kicked very well and the Saints stayed with Carney long after Hartley’s suspension was over. The dilemma was that Carney was dependable, but didn’t have a very strong leg. Hartley continued to kick well in practice. Late in the season, Payton elected to release Carney and make him a "kicking consultant" and let Hartley handle the kicking. Could Carney have made the 47-yarder? Maybe, but the odds were probably less than Payton’s magical 60 to 70 percent. Hartley made it with ease.
Speaking of chances, Payton took his last big one after Brees hit Jeremy Shockey with a 2-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints a 22-17 lead with 5:42 remaining. Instead of leaving Manning with enough time to beat him with a touchdown, Payton chose to go for the two-point conversion. At first, Brees’ pass to Lance Moore was ruled incomplete. But Payton, with help from assistant coaches who had seen the replay, challenged the call. The play was overturned and the Saints were given two points.
The gambling didn’t really stop there, but that’s only because it started so long ago. You want to know what Payton’s biggest gamble of all was? Forget about taking the New Orleans job just after Hurricane Katrina because it was a chance for Payton to move up. And forget about the signing of Brees soon after -- yes, there were questions about his surgically-repaired shoulder, but there had been evidence before that he could play.
Payton’s real leap came after last season when it became painfully obvious he had a great offense, but absolutely no defense. He fired defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs and got Gregg Williams. Once upon a time, Williams had a reputation as a great defensive mind. That got sullied during stints as a head coach in Buffalo and as a coordinator in Washington and Jacksonville. There were also whispers about how Williams could be a bit of a self-promoter and more style than substance. Payton threw out $250,000 of his own salary to make sure the Saints got Williams. It turned out to be the best bet he ever made. Williams came in the door preaching aggressive defense. It worked nicely at the start of the season, but seemed to fizzle around midseason when the Saints ran into some injury problems. The Saints got healthier as the playoffs came and played good defense in victories against Arizona and Minnesota. But Manning wasn’t supposed to be like Brett Favre or Kurt Warner at the end of their careers. He was supposed to be fool-proof, but Williams and the Saints ended up fooling Manning and sealing the game. Tracy Porter picked off Manning and returned it for a touchdown with 3:12 remaining. "This is kind of a redemption that makes me feel a lot better," Williams said. "I’m really happy for the people of New Orleans. They adopted me. When I came to town in January, I tried to tell them I wasn’t a savior." No, not a savior, just part of one very calculated gamble that played off.
Article by Pat Yasinskas
There are not really words superlative enough, extreme enough, big enough to describe what happened in New Orleans on Sunday night. What can you possibly say that could encapsulate the screaming, the celebrating, the crying, the joying, the being a New Orleanian?
All I can muster is to say that this city is on fire. Everywhere you go, people have this look on their face - this look that says, we did it. And what's great about that is that it inspires people, teaches them that they too can do it. To me, Sean Payton said it best when he said that "you have to have the courage to win the big game." Nothing could be more true. I've faced down some big games in my life; everyone has. No one shows that more than the people of New Orleans who play that big game and face it with dignity and courage.
This perfect moment has lasted for two entire days, and that magic doesn't seem like it's going to wear off anytime soon. We are going to the Saints parade this afternoon, and I expect nothing less than complete and utter crazy Saints-mania. I am so lucky to have been a part of this amazing season. I am so lucky to live here and study here and work here to make this a better place. I am so lucky to that this place makes me a better person in return.
I think all that's left to say is