By Tony Kornheiser
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I've been in many arenas when the game means a lot. I've been at hockey playoff games where it seems like the noise is louder than in any other arena. I've been at basketball games in college arenas, like Cole Field House when Duke comes in, and it sounds like U2 and Green Day are playing inside your head. I've been in outdoor football stadiums, like RFK, that shook with the noise. I can remember the 1987 World Series in Minnesota, where the noise level inside the Metrodome made it feel like your eyeballs were about to pop out.
But I can't recall anything like the combination of noise, glee, gratitude, relief, hope and prayer that was offered up in the Superdome at the beginning of Monday night's game -- and the level got even higher on that stunning blocked punt that gave the New Orleans Saints the lead early.
The Atlanta Falcons had said all weekend that they felt they were at a competitive disadvantage because the whole world, not just Saints fans, were against them. And the truth of the matter is that they were right. It was their turn in the box. Everyone is rooting for the Saints now. They aren't a team so much as a cause and, by metaphoric extension, if the Saints can rebuild, so can New Orleans. Then you have the realization of that amorphous concept known as the can-do American spirit.
Look, outside the walls of that Superdome are miles and miles of ravaged houses and empty neighborhoods. New Orleans isn't coming back in the three hours it takes to play a football game. Or in the other seven regular season games that the Saints will play there this year.
It will take years and years for it to come back whole again. But the great elixir of sports, the great shot of adrenaline that sports gives you, is in those few hours when you can lose yourself -- and put your worries aside -- and if you get lucky, your team wins and you go home happy.
The problem in New Orleans, of course, is that not everybody has a home to go to. Still, nobody walking out of that Superdome on Monday night felt anything but hope. It's a script that was perfectly written and a moment that was perfectly lived.