If you're a SAINTS fan, then you are undoubtedly spending this weekend remembering Hurricane Katrina. Every SAINTS fan remembers that weekend 6 years ago. Most of the country remembers that weekend. Looking at the preseason week 3 match-up with the SAINTS traveling to meet the Raiders in Oakland, I am reminded of some bitter sweet memories. We were at the 2005 preseason game against the Raiders. We sat around tailgating at Oakland Coliseum, throwing the football around and drinking some cold beverages. But, we weren't talking about football. We were talking about our friends and families. We were saying things like "have you heard from so and so" and "did everybody make it out ok?" Wearing our Black and Gold had a different meaning that day. We were bonded in a special, tragic way.
Of course, we wanted to see our boys take the field and beat the Raiders in a football game. Of course, we had hopes of a great season ahead and we naturally, as in all years before, believed that "this was our year"! There was something odd in the air that day though. We were in The Raider Nation...we were wearing our team colors...we were "the enemy". BUT, we were being treated with respect, with class, with appropriate empathy and compassion. Raiders fans were coming up to us and offering condolences and taking their pictures with us. During the game, we weren't spit on or heckled or called dirty names. People offered to buys us beers. We high fived tailgaters in the parking lot. I was immediately taken back by the class that was displayed by NFL fans in the face of obvious tragedy.
Sure, football is a sport where large men beat the crap out of each other. The 12th man can be offensive and downright despicable. No one even wants to know what goes on at the bottom of a scrum for a loose ball. But, somehow we know when the time for civility is in order. We're all human after all.
All of this leads me to ask the question....is the "Class of 2005" still alive in football? We've been at SAINTS/49ers games in the last few years at Candlestick Point where we were treated with overt anger. Not sportsman like heckling, but rude and gangster hostility. At the Raiders/49ers game last week, several people were severely beaten and two people were shot. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE! It's a football game!
We have season tickets to The Super Dome. We see people from all over the country come to The Dome. They wear their blue and silver Mardi Gras beads (for The Cowboys) and their green shotglass necklaces (Eagles) and act like jerks. Twice during the 2006 season we beat the Eagles 27-24. One of those wins earned us a trip to Chicago to play in the NFC Championship game. Eagles fans were rude and obnoxious during both games saying things like "we dont care about your little rainy day". Perhaps I should send them the same thoughts after Irene just passed through their backyard. BUT....I WONT! Instead, I will send my thoughts and prayers to all the effected people along the East Coast. When they come to New Orleans and to The Super Dome, we will welcome them and offer to buy them a beer! We will say, "we totally understand and let us know if there's anything we can do".