- LZ Granderson, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
- 0 Shares
It started off as a quick blurb on Twitter: Saints in 2010 ... Hell freezes over in 2011 ... Lions win Super Bowl in 2012.
Initially I was just being flip, although Detroit's image and economy have been limping so badly for the past two decades that a Lions Super Bowl could breathe life into the city's streets in a New Orleans sort of way.
Of course, the Lions won an NFL Championship in 1957, and Cleveland (another struggling city that yearns for success) has a Browns title from 1955. Cubs followers, by comparison, have a 100-year drought.
When sports fans really step back, there's always someone, somewhere, who has it worse.
That's why it's important to remember that Super Bowl XLIV was not about the Aints becoming the Saints but about the people of New Orleans. The nation didn't rally behind this football team because it was a long-suffering franchise. As I said earlier, there are plenty of franchises with bad players, ownership and luck. And it wasn't just about the people of a crippled city having something to rally around; again the country has a dozen of those.
No, one of the main reasons this Super Bowl was the most watched game in television history is that New Orleans became embedded in everyone's hearts after the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.
It may seem as though I'm restating the obvious, but culturally we have a short attention span and there is a temptation to start looking at the Saints' victory as a sports story and not one of the human spirit.
When that happens, comparisons to other downtrodden franchises such as the Cubs or the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have 17 consecutive losing seasons, allow us to subconsciously distance ourselves from the visceral reaction we had to the flooded streets, flattened neighborhoods and people stranded on rooftops, begging for help.
The Saints' win is not about loveable losers turning things around but rather a reminder of what we all are capable of when we set our differences aside and try to help each other.
While cities such as Detroit or Baltimore have been economically devastated, their circumstances occurred in comprehensible ways: corrupt politicians, mismanaged funds, bad schools, disappearing manufacturing jobs. These are issues we can not only understand, but, in some ways categorize as not our problem.
It's nearly impossible to do that when confronted by the unavoidable warpath of Mother Nature, be it a hurricane or, as happened in Haiti, an earthquake. It seems only when the earth humbles us are we are ready to better serve each other.
This is why there should be no comparisons or thoughts of "now it's our turn." This New Orleans Saints story, this moment should always stand alone. And perhaps the best way to recognize its importance is to avoid doing what I did earlier this week, when I made casual sports references in relationship to it.
My tweet was meant to be funny, but when I really think about it, I was a bit of an ass -- Katrina and Hurricane Rita killed more than 1,500 people and caused billions of dollars in damages along the Gulf Coast. The new mayor may have a Super Bowl parade to oversee, but he also has a city with less than $5 million in emergency reserves and a national recession that has drastically slowed the rebuilding process.
Detroit may be hurting (the Lions have won only nine games in three years), but St. Louis is also hurting (and the Rams have won just six games in three years). When you look at sports, there will always be someone worse off. If either of those teams gets back to the Super Bowl, they will make great sports stories.
For New Orleans, Super Bowl XLIV wasn't as much a sports story as a reminder of how small we really are and, in a time of crisis, how tall we all stood -- together.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Super Bowl XLIV was not about the Aints becoming the Saints but about the people of New Orleans. The nation didn't rally behind this football team because it was a long-suffering franchise.