I decided to watch one of the more important games in New Orleans Saints history with the father I love dearly, which is important to mention considering how mercilessly I portray him in this. He only watches football with me, and it shows. (You can never hide it. Whether it's shuddering at a routine tackle or second-guessing Joe Theismann when a real fan will just shrug it off, you can never hide it.) He and my stepmom are also born-again Christians, as you'll soon discover. Without further adieu:
7:26- Tuning in late, I am treated to Green Day and U2 mid-jam. They're performing "The Saints Are Coming," but it sounds like an off-key "A View to a Kill" or something. Billie Joe is actively trying to look like a woman now. It's amazing that in 1995 I thought he was the best musician evar, and now my only opinion of him concerns the fact that he's wearing more makeup than my Aunt Sue.
7:32- "Monday Night Football" begins with a pretty de rigeur intro featuring a gospel choir and Baptisty preacher saying things like "we're-still-here" and "we must rebuild." Because, you know, there are a lot of black people in New Orleans, and they all act like this. I have to say I'm pretty used to it by now. Everyone else in the country assumes that I eat crawdads for every meal, sweat constantly, live in the French Quarter, and slip into French in regular conversation. I've come to terms with this.
"Wait, there's a game today? I just came for the Goo Goo Dolls."
7:33- The Saints run out the tunnel, led by some stan on a motorcycle. Are they going straight to introductions of the teams? Did they skip the whole Hank Williams, Jr. thing for this? Don't mess with my traditions, ESPN. I need my city rebuilt, but I also need to know that all my rowdy friends are down for Monday night.
7:36- Kornheiser gets his real journalism on and provides an accurate assessment of how most people here feel, that this game is tangible progress but that shit is still definitely not okay. Nicely done. Theismann then launches into the whole "Reggie Bush is really good" thing, and seven minutes in without mentioning him is probably a record. Not seven minutes into a telecast--I'm talking about seven minutes into any conversation in the past five months.
Abbott: "Reggie Bush?"
Costello: "Reggie Bush, Reggie Bush. Reggie Bush?"
Abbott: "Reggie Bush!"
Costello: Reggie Bush...Reggie Bush; Reggie--Reggie Bush."
7:41- Solid "National Anthem by Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint.
7:47- After the first sighting of tonight's official Ed "Guns" Hochuli at the coin toss, we finally get the Bocephus "Monday Night Football" song. Thank
7:50- Warrick Dunn delivers the player introductions for the Falcons more or less sincerely, and obviously doesn't get that he's supposed to say stuff like, "We call him Nickels, from the School of Hard Knocks." Mike McKenzie then introduces the "Terror Crew," led by Scott Fujita, "that Asian Assassin." Much better.
Dad's thoughts on Mike McKenzie: "I don't know how he can play with all that hair."
7:52- On the fourth play from scrimmage, Steve Gleason stuffs a punt and the Saints recover for an easy touchdown. At 7-0, I wonder why I didn't bet on this game. In the shots of fans celebrating, ESPN shows the first of many frustrating signs that spell out the network's name:
Don't worry, they get worse.
7:59- The Falcons respond with a deep pass that puts them inside the ten. McKenzie had great coverage, but Vick put the ball in just the right spot. Theismann informs us that we can't "poo-poo Vick's passing ability."
8:01- Alge Crumpler drops two straight touchdowns, and Kornheiser cracks me up by explaining that he's upset because he "has him in fantasy tonight." I assume he's talking about fantasy football, but if anyone in that booth has him in personal fantasy, it's Mike Tirico.
8:02- Morten Andersen drills a short field goal. Back in the day, when he played for the Saints, he owned a ribs restaurant next to Lakeside Mall, and one time I recognized him and introduced myself. He was really nice for a guy with a mullet, and he produced an 8 x 10 glossy of himself, which he autographed with a smiley face. I still have fond memories of the encounter, but what kind of person walks around with glossies of themselves?
8:10- Local company A-1 Appliances runs its first of six commercials tonight. In it, the A-1 owners ask Reggie Bush, "Hey, Reggie, just how fast are you?" He replies, "Fast enough" and the camera shows him walking around the store in fast-motion. Then he smiles and goes, "Now you know me." Dad just stared at it for a moment and concluded, "This is dumb." It was followed by a local commercial for Ronnie Lamarque's Ford dealership, to which Dad concluded, "Ford significantly funds homosexual advances and causes. They advertise in gay magazines and everything. Many Christians have boycotted them." Um...cool?
8:12- So is it good that football can provide a little bit of solace for people whose entire lives were blown away by the hurricane? Or does this show how relatively meaningless sports are? Is the Superdome being rebuilt a blessing for the morale of the community or should we be worrying about that when people are living in trailers? No one at ESPN knows the answers to these questions, so they kind of adopt a different stance every five minutes and take turns with each opinion. Tirico is the best at doing this.
8:17- Yay! The Drew Brees story again. Wait, so San Diego didn't think he was good, so they drafted another quarterback. But then he was good, so they didn't know what to do? So they let him go after he got injured, and New Orleans picked him up? Man, that's fascinat--is that a birthmark?
8:22- After a big Marques Coltston catch, we get a flexing from Ed "Guns" Hochuli during a roughing the passer call. Many of these hand signals seem designed for a man of his impressive build. I'm waiting for him to ask the Dome where the weight room is. Theismann informs us that "this field does not favor a Reggie Bush" [italics mine] Dad: "Boy, you'd hate to do laundry for those white pants."
8:26- A touchdown on a double reverse to Devery Henderson makes the score 14-3. Not only did Bush sell the first reverse perfectly, Brees laid out a pretty good block that sprung Henderson into the end zone. Things really couldn't be going much better for the Saints, so naturally, I start to wonder what could go wrong.
8:42- Kornheiser says that Warrick Dunn took some Falcons on a tour across the lower ninth ward and other Katrina-affected areas and, more importantly, that the trip was "surreal." Can we all stop using this word to describe disaster? Maybe this is the pomo theorist in me, but it isn't all that surreal. It isn't dream-like, featuring incongruous juxtapositions, or referring to the artistic movement characterized by such juxtapositions. A fucking storm with hundred mile plus winds destroyed the gulf coast. Its consequences were pretty logical and expected--hyper-real, one would even be inclined to say. Had a hurricane hit New Orleans and caused the sky to rain fire that might have been surreal. Had a hurricane hit New Orleans and caused a fish to serve me breakfast in bed, except the bed was a cloud and it wasn't clear whether the exchange was a dream, reality, both, or neither, that might have been surreal. Can we get this vocab straight?
8:44- Watching commercials for local political candidates, Dad espouses on their political, legal, and religious fitness for office for minutes on end. I reply, "You know, we're playing Vick pretty well. Usually he runs all over us."
"Hey, what ever happened to Fetch Monster? You know, the dog that would run out and retrieve the kicking tees." [Sigh...]
8:50- Our boys from ESPN invite Spike Lee into the booth to talk about the hurricane and stuff. Deuce McAllister picks up twenty-two yards, and they kind of forget about Spike until Tirico asks about who should shoulder the blame in the aftermath of Katrina, to which Spike answers, "I don't want to pull a Kanye." Cue the need to explain Kanye West and his relevance in this arena to Dad.
8:56- There's a pass interference call that Jim Mora, Jr. challenges. It's the exact same call that affected LSU against Auburn last week. That's so going to become the Louisiana version of the Tuck Rule.
8:59- John Carney boots a thirty-seven yarder. That makes the score 17-3 but is also significant because he apparently "gives God the glory" for his kicking talent. Good to know.
9:06- Once again, the phrase "trials and tribulations" is used. So...did something happen to New Orleans recently? Why was the Superdome all messed up? What's going on with these people?
9:07- Atlanta is driving. Vick fakes a scramble and hits Griffith for a gain that brings them into the red zone.
9:15- The Saints block a chip-shot field goal from Andersen, and I'm wondering why we haven't been blessed with any reaction shots from Atlanta's deranged special teams coach.
Dad: "You see that girl they showed in the crowd with a--with that thing on her tongue?"
Me: "A tongue ring?"
Dad: "I don't understand that."
9:17- First down to Marques Colston, whom I love. He's a great route-runner and is becoming Brees' go-to guy. The only problem is that he's the exact same type of player as Joe Horn and having two possession receiver types never works.
9:21- Bush has an electrifying run that finishes with a hurdle for the first down. I haven't mentioned him yet, but he has seven rushes for 39 yards and two receptions for 9 yards. If he scores in this game, it would blow the roof off the place. I wonder what that would be like. Oh, wait...
9:25- Just before the end of the half, Carney hits a fifty-one yarder to make it 20-3. I love the New Orleans Saints.
9:36- The halftime show is basically a rehash of the pre-game festivities. I forgot that the Goo Goo Dolls performed and would have preferred to have kept it that way. Furthermore, I'm so confused by my reactions to Chris Berman now. I used to think he was unintentionally funny, then I sincerely hated him, but now I think it's come full circle and I genuinely think he's funny.
9:51- Hey, zydeco music and Bourbon street! They must be in New Orleans for this game!
Mike Tirico: "And for any of you who have been there, Bourbon Street looks just like it used to."
My Stepmom: "Yeah. Raunchy."
9:54- Everyone wants Bush to run the ball in on the goal line, but he fails to do so twice, so John Carney is sent out to connect on a twenty-yard field goal. 23-3, Saints.
10:04- After the Saints force Vick to his fourth third-and-out, we cut to Suzy Kolber, who is wearing a turtleneck, despite it being eighty degrees or so in the Dome. Why is she covering up? Is Joe Namath there or something? Hey-oh! Mike Tirico also reveals that he ate lunch at Mother's. Instant street cred.
10:12- Not only does Theismann, referring to a flag, say a referee should "take it out of his pants," he is in full-on jinx mode, saying things like, "You've got to figure the Falcons will only have four possessions from here on out." I'm getting nervous again. I've seen a lot of Saints games unravel.
10:20- The outside of the Superdome looks like a Nite-Brite toy.
10:22- Is this Saints game good for the community or something? People have been implying it, but no one has really said it. Is this a good city trying to get back on its feet? Are we doing our best to rebuild but still facing a lot of adversity? None of these things have even been touched on tonight. I wish someone would mention these issues. This is more than a football game, after all.
10:27- Why in God's name is Joe Horn not Mic'd Up for tonight's contest?
10:30- Another car dealership commercial rouses dad to denounce its owner as "a jerk."
10:37- Kornheiser starts to explain that each hurricane-ravaged house that needs to be gutted "is marked with an X. And at the bottom of that X is the sad number of people that died, sometimes four or five." A graphic on the screen estimates that 1,833 people died from Katrina. The Falcons connect on fourth and twelve.
10:43- Another sack of Sr. Mexico, who has been hurried fourteen times, knocked down seven, and sacked four times. The Saints have limited him flawlessly.
Mike. Vick. Face.
10:50- Deuce McAllister: 19 rushes for 81 yards, Reggie Bush: 13 rushes for 52 yards. I call them Katrina and Rita.
10:57- We're winding down yet another "Monday Night Football" game that is a foregone conclusion, and the commentators are making small talk. Tirico and Kornheiser are deep-throating the Superdome, talking about famous events that occurred there. I haven't heard from Theismann in a long time. He might have gone to the bathroom, in which case I have to inform him that: a) the urinal-looking troughs that line the wall are actually urinals; the urinal-looking things in the middle are where you wash your hands, and b) special players make special plays on special days.
JoE Horn 4 President
Payton 4 Mayor of
Seriously. That's just silly. Neither has any political experience.
Silly Benson, no wonder we've only won one playoff game. You keep opening that umbrella inside.
10:59- The Saints have paced Atlanta 23-3, and Tom Benson walks onto the field with that stupid umbrella. To use the Theismann construction, here's a guy who wanted to move the team to San Antonio during the worst natural disaster of the modern era. Here's a guy who has threatened to move the team to Mississippi on countless occasions. Here's a guy who has no loyalty to anyone and never wanted the Superdome re-built. And he's doing a second-line on the fifty-yard line. I guess this city can be pretty forgiving sometimes.