Sunday, January 27, 2019

Second Lining

It was a party in the street tonight, New Orleans style. Outside The Second Line restaurant in Midtown Memphis, dozens of Saints fans and I witnessed a jazz funeral and second line for the 2018 season that ended with the non-call heard 'round the world.

Chants of Who Dat and "When The Saints Go Marching In" filled the air in the frenzied yet restorative power of the traditional Crescent City eulogy.

As a casket made its way down the aisle, we booed the refs who stole from us. We cheered memories of past Saints who brought us where we are today, and we gave thanks to Drew Brees for returning for another season with the black and gold.

Nothing brings out the best in a Saints fan like cocktails and commiseration.  That's because, arguably, nobody knows the ecstasy of victory or the agony of defeat quite like the men and women who don the black and gold every fall and put just as much of their hearts on the line as the Boys. Talk of the Super Bowl XLIV victory brings out euphoric nostalgia. Equally as emotional, heads are bowed and cups ever so slightly raised in reverence to the lean years of brown paper bags and losing seasons.

I watched that fateful game against the Los Angeles Rams with my sister-in-law at her home just north of New Orleans. We were struck speechless watching live, then replay after replay, footage of Rams Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slam into Saints Tommylee Lewis. A blatant pass interference that played out in front of the referees, an entire Superdome of fans, and millions more across the country.  Each slow-motion recap a gut-punch.

And as the seconds ticked by with no flag thrown, it became clear that Robey-Coleman was going to get away with murder. In the end, the Rams punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. Fruit of the poisonous tree.

The missed call was so egregious, league officials called Coach Sean Payton after the game and admitted that there should have been two penalties on the play.

After a week of trash talking the refs, the Rams, the league and anyone who might even remotely have a dog in that hunt, the outcome of the showdown remains the same: the Saints were robbed and the Rams players involved in the incident have proven themselves to be classless, perhaps a more heinous offense to some Saints fans than the actual blown call.

So tonight, we buried the season here in Memphis the only way that could bring any measure of closure. We cheered for the Boys, cursed those who wronged us, and took a walk down the street to the melodies of a brass band.

And because even a funeral is a party in New Orleans, there were smiles and selfies with old friends.

Maybe some day, we'll bow our heads and raise our cups ever so slightly in memory of this heartbreak. Maybe.

Bless you, Boys.

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