Sports will always matter. People who refuse to acknowledge the power of sports in changing American minds and influencing individual perceptions lack a basic understanding of the world.
Consider what Jackie Robinson did for Black people when he integrated baseball (a sport Black people oddly refuse to play now) in 1947:
“The integration of organized baseball preceded the civil-rights revolution, and in reality baseball helped make later reforms politically feasible by giving white Americans black heroes with whom to identify.”We have briefly discussed Invictus, a film that explores why the Afrikaners finally capitulated to African National Congress (ANC) rule in South Africa: the ability to play international rugby.
It is anecdotally stated that the 1970 Southern California- Alabama football contest did more to bring integration to the Southern states than any Civil Rights activists could ever have hoped to attain.
The defeat by a racially integrated Trojan team over the all-white Crimson Tide was enough to convince Bear Bryant that to compete in college football, Black players would be necessary.
More importantly, the winning ways of the 2009 New Orleans Saints have propelled that town into a euphoric sense of racial solidarity that not even the election of the post-racial Mein Obama could create:
“Few things unite New Orleans in this way: Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and now -- perhaps more than ever -- the Saints.
With every victory, the Saints (13-0) improve not only their record but also the city's infamously complex and oft divisive race relations.
"It's not that it will cure race or magically make disappear the racial tensions, which are rooted in real issues, structural problems, historic inequalities and resentment. But it does remind you that in this city people have more in common than they realize, " said Dr. Lawrence Powell, who teaches southern history, race relations and Holocaust studies at Tulane. "That we can share in this special moment in the athletic history of the city should remind us that we can sit down and talk, as well as cheer and chant and have a good time."
You see, there has only been one murder (!!!!) in New Orleans this season when the Saints have been playing a home game, a nearly implausible trend when you consider the horrible crime rate that the city has long suffered:
“Maybe you use bizarre trends, such as an NOPD cop telling me the 911 calls almost stop when the Saints play and there's been only one murder during a game this year.”
The Superdome, French Quarter and Bourbon Street are the scenes of true “Beer Summits” that have done more to bring a town - notorious for a deep racial divide – together than any piece of legislation, initiative or Act of God could (although some would say the Saints making the Super Bowl is an act of God). The Saints are a franchise that was so hapless, fans would wear grocery bags on their heads lest they be seen attending a game:
“That history includes years in which the team lost a lot and was nicknamed the Aints, and some fans wore paper bags on their heads in shame."
Yes, the “Chocolate city” is seeing a revival of sorts after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina exposed a Haitian-esque constituency living amongst the citizens of New Orleans.
In fact, that deep connection to Haiti that former New Orleans’ citizens exhibited has been transferred to other cities:
“New Orleans police say they have never seen so much peace and quiet on the city's streets.
"We haven't seen a robbery since the beginning of August," said Lt. Troy Savage, who patrols what was once the city's most violent neighborhood.
"We're probably at this point, one of the safest communities in the United States," he said. .
Since Hurricane Katrina forced most of the residents to relocate, police say, the daily shootings and killings have stopped.
"This was the most lethal criminal underclass in the United States," said Dr. Peter Scharf, director of the University of New Orleans Center for Society, Law and Justice. "We were heading for a murder rate of 72 per 100,000. New York City is at seven."
Scharf says, according to city records, there were 265 murders in New Orleans last year, 258 murders in 2003, and 275 in 2002…
By some estimates, hardcore criminals in New Orleans numbered in the tens of thousands, and they're now living in other cities -- Baton Rouge, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston.
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says crime is up in neighborhoods where large numbers of evacuees have settled.
He says he needs 400 new officers and has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financial assistance.”
Crime through the relocation of Black people was New Orleans top export from 2005 - 2007 and the city rallied around the Saints football franchise and clung to the success of the team like a security blanket.
Sadly, that lone murder occurred during a game that they were losing (although they did come back after the murder had transpired), thus bringing a correlation to the Saints losing and crime since both have such an intricate to the city.
Consider that prior to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans – the former District 9 of the United States – Black people had created a city that was virtually a case study in the nightly news phenomenon that we cited at SBPDL :
In 2003, New Orleans’s murder rate was nearly eight times the national average—and since then, murder has increased. In 2002 and 2003, New Orleans had the highest per capita city homicide rate in the United States, with 59 people killed per year per 100,000 citizens—compared to New York City’s seven. New Orleans is a New York with nearly 5,000 murders a year—an unlivable place. The city’s economy has sputtered over the past generation partly because local and state officials have failed to do the most elementary job of government: to secure the personal safety of citizens.
The president wasn’t alone in his misperception of what ails New Orleans. In the aftermath of the storm, hand-wringers wondered why they hadn’t noticed before that so many American blacks live in Third World conditions—supposedly only because they’re black. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer voiced white America’s knee-jerk best: “You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals. . . . So many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor, and they are so black,” he mused on the air…
But the grisly truth is that awful violence in New Orleans is never an aberration—whether before or after Katrina. Just consider the following snippets from the Times-Picayune, all printed in the month before Katrina hit. They seem just as hysterical as some of Katrina’s wildest tales.
“Violence tests the limits of mortician’s art.” “Some neighborhoods are being terrorized by thugs who have figured out that they have little to fear from the justice system.” “Almost nightly images of violent crime bludgeon New Orleans.” “Violent crime has emerged as . . . an ongoing source of national embarrassment.” “Murders are so common we have become numbed to their sting.” “Killers are killed, Orleans police say.” “The city is becoming scarier.” “Violence shows no signs of letup.” “Three men killed in seven hours; all are shot to death on New Orleans streets.” “After a short reprieve from murder and mayhem in New Orleans on Friday, six men lost their lives.” “This is Iraq right here in New Orleans. By 2020 there might not be any black people left.” “There’s a different type of murder occurring now and a different type of criminal out there.” “New Orleans area continues to log murder after murder.” “Something must be done to curb the violence festering in New Orleans.” “Now we’re in a bloody war nobody’s safe from.”
The history of the New Orleans Saints is one of a morbid franchise situated in a city renowned for its motto - Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez – and an incredible amount of Black crime that is now displaced among neighboring states largest cities.
The football team though is working overtime to bring together racial harmony in a town plagued by racial animosity that few wish to acknowledge (even though the Superdome is packed with white and Black fans high-fiving in jubilation every Sunday the Saints are in town):
“In one of the clearest signs yet of Hurricane Katrina’s lasting demographic impact, the City Council is about to have a white majority for the first time in over two decades, pointing up again the storm’s displacement of thousands of residents, mostly black…
Since the mid-1980s, black politicians have held virtually all of the reins of power in a city where interest groups are sharply factionalized along racial lines and blacks were once two-thirds of the population. Saturday’s vote indicated a transition is in the making, perhaps similar to the one that occurred at the end of the segregation era here.
White candidates made other gains on Saturday, taking two New Orleans seats in the Louisiana Legislature long held by blacks, and a state court judgeship that had also been occupied by a black judge.”
Black professionals refer to the office (of mayor) as “the franchise,” the counterweight to the economic power of New Orleans’s white elite. For the past three decades, the black private sector — the lawyers, businessmen and architects — has relied on the franchise: they may not always be able to become board members at the city’s white-owned firms, but black professionals turned to the city government for contracts and jobs.
But after Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Charbonnet said, the importance of keeping the franchise often paled next to immediate crises, like the city’s shortage of health care facilities, the slow recovery of the black middle-class neighborhoods of Gentilly and New Orleans East, and the widespread scattering of the city’s population. Some members of the city’s black middle class found Atlanta, St. Louis or Chicago to be more welcoming; though blacks are still in the majority here, their numbers have shrunk.
“We’re not attuned to politics as we once were,” Mr. Charbonnet said. But that is unfortunate, he added. The prospect of a white mayor, he said, is “an earth-shaking event.”
Sports help create myths. Sometimes the myth endures, becoming a legend in the process. Other times, the myth dies a violent death, as many have at the hands of the Black underclass in New Orleans.
The New Orleans Saints have developed a myth surrounding them since 2005, as they have become a team of destiny thanks to Hurricane Katrina.
Heath Evans, a white fullback for the Saints, had this to say about the team chemistry in pre-season (notice how it reflects the mood of the city):
"You have some teams that are racially divided. You have some teams that are positionally divided. Some teams divided between offense and defense. Everyone has to buy in and be on the same page."
Nurturing such an environment in the "me generation" can be difficult. If not managed properly, the wealth and fame associated with the NFL can be hazardous to a locker room's cultural health.
"I believe the difference between winning and losing, between first and last place, is this much," Evans said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. "Not every team has great leadership."
This team will appear in the Super Bowl to face the Indianapolis Colts, with a chance of bringing home the Lombardi Trophy for a parade the likes of which New Orleans has never seen.
However, like Black businesses returning to New Orleans, the prospect of a loss in the Super Bowl strikes citizens of the city with a deep sense of dread.
For, Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes the New Orleans Saints losing, for the team’s success at bringing racial harmony to the city is predicated upon them winning. Most of their history was spent losing football games, which resulted in massive loss of life.
With only one murder during the 2009 season (when the Saints played a home game), we have now seen how to bring about safe New Orleans. The team must win, to keep Black people from committing murder. The power of sports can create strange delusions.
The New Orleans Saints seem to be bringing a city together by winning, but reality paints a much different picture. Remember, sports are just entertainment. “Let the good times roll?”… if the Saints lose the Super Bowl, expect business as usual in “the Chocolate City” that same night. Not even the Saints winning can keep nature at bay for long.