Monday, September 12, 2005
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
September 11, 2005
One team, displaced to the road like nearly everyone else back home, faced a championship contender on their turf and scored four times in the fourth quarter, including twice on special teams and once when, on fourth-and-forget-it, a 39-yard prayer was caught for a touchdown to deliver the comeback, the game and the dream.
One team, displaced to the road like nearly everyone else back home, faced a championship contender on their turf and scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a last-second, 47-yard game-winning field goal to deliver the comeback, the game and the dream.
And so now you begin to wonder.
Louisiana State on Saturday night, New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Two stunning, last-moment victories.
Do you believe in miracles?
"In the back of our minds, we know we have to give them one tiny bit of hope," quarterback Aaron Brooks told reporters after the Saints' 23-20 victory over Carolina, which came not 24 hours after LSU beat Arizona State 35-31.
"We have complete faith in what we are doing because every time we go out there, it is our job to give them hope that every day will be a better day."
And there can be no minimizing the word "tiny" here. A couple of dramatic football victories don't bring back the dead, lower the floodwaters or rebuild neighborhoods.
A couple of dramatic football victories are a couple of dramatic football victories – a little more than nothing in the great, grand post-Katrina scheme of things.
But if you witnessed New York and its Yankees after September 11, if you can appreciate that having anything to cheer, to distract or to warm the heart can mean so much more than tiny, then these were more than just a couple of dramatic football victories.
If you can understand that for some of the 340,000 former residents of Greater New Orleans, huddled across the country in shelters, hotels and someone else's living room, the chance to pump a fist about something great happening to a couple of teams representing their battered hometown and bruised home state is more than just a couple of dramatic football victories.
Which is why everyone's favorite team to reach the Super Bowl should be the New Orleans Saints.
And everyone's favorite team to reach the Rose Bowl ought to be the LSU Tigers.
Because who doesn't want to believe in miracles?
Before the Saints' game at Super Bowl-favorite Carolina, coach Jim Haslett read a letter he received from New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who understands all of this too well.
"He talked about the things he had seen, babies dying," receiver Joe Horn told reporters.
Horror movie stuff Horn went on to say. Every-day stuff in the Big Easy. It brought the tragedy of New Orleans home for a group of players and coaches who have the spent the last two weeks in San Antonio.
For the LSU players, a letter from the front lines wasn't needed. Their game against Arizona State was moved to Tempe because their campus is full of refugees from New Orleans. Sixty-eight Tigers hail from Louisiana, 14 from the city of New Orleans.
This is their tragedy.
"I'm just so proud," LSU coach Les Miles said afterward.
Everyone should be. These two teams won two games under incredible distraction and distress. And both teams spent their postgame interviews talking about how they have it easy, reminding us that football is nothing and repeating that they would trade all the wins in the world for Katrina to never have happened.
"It's not all about us anymore," Saints offensive lineman Wayne Gandy said.
Humble, big-picture athletes? In today's sports world?
The fortunes of these teams could have broken either way. The hurricane could have cost focus, it could have slowed minds, it could have sucked the fight out of people too tired to fight for something so frivolous.
Or it could raise them up – give them a sense of pride and purpose never before experienced. Having something so powerful and real to rally around – not just silly locker room stuff – could give two teams the little edge that creates big seasons.
It was just football. It was just one weekend.
But for two teams with one dream, it was much more than that