NEW ORLEANS -- Where were you when the Saints won it all? It's one of those questions -- like, Where were you during the Apollo 11 moon landing? -- that will be asked a lot in the decades to come by generations of sports fans trying to put their lives in the context of something far bigger.
Where was I? Inside
New Orleans already had a singular reputation for hospitality, but during the Super Bowl the city eclipsed its own lofty standard. Even the most seasoned party crasher would've struggled to keep up with the Joneses, who didn't go 10 minutes without offering me something to eat (I'm good), five minutes without checking on my drink situation (I'm good), or two minutes without apologizing for the rowdy family members that congested their living room. (Goodness, were they hilarious.)
I counted about 40 relatives in all -- 41 if you count Patricia's sister
When the Saints defense faced third-and-five with 3:24 left and
For those who couldn't be part of the Who Dat Diaspora in South Florida, there was no better place to be during the big game than right here, no happier place on earth than New Orleans. No more peaceful a place, either. Cities can turn into dangerous places in the wake of a championship, where burning trash cans and overturning cars has become de rigueur. But on Sunday night here, the safest places may well have been the streets.
People filled them in droves in anticipation of a boa-feathered, parasol-punctuated party 43 years in the making, and for a catharsis that seemed implausible 4½ years ago when another, far darker question served as this town's unofficial icebreaker: Where were you when the levees broke?
There was no way
He knew the buzz in the city would be a million times that if the team reached the Super Bowl, and Amanda knew it too. When the Saints were battling the Vikings in the NFC Championship, she was online researching hotels and airfare prices. As soon as
He was just as grateful that the kitchen's order window had a clear sightline to one of the flat screens in the restaurant's dining room. When the final seconds ticked away on the Saints' historic victory, he raised a glass of champagne with his fellow co-workers, then met up with his family in the lobby of a nearby hotel to bask with them in the bedlam.
Still, that festive atmosphere barely approached the one that greeted him outside his New Orleans East home in the closing moments of Super Bowl XLIV. Neighbors burst out of their houses to whoop it up, shoot firecrackers into the crisp night air and honk their horns loud and long enough to set off the alarms in other cars on the block. As Haywood was taking this in another vision filled his head. "We're gonna repeat," said Haywood, explaining that the team was built for a five-year run. "I'm not saying we're gonna win the Super Bowl in all of those years, but we might do two or three."
Back in the Ninth, Timothy Washington wasn't looking to match Haywood prediction for prediction after the game as much as he was looking to slip outside for a celebratory smoke. For this 24-year-old hotel security guard, the real victory was being able to share this moment with family members he had completely lost touch with after the hurricane hit, in a rebuilt house that was once submerged in floodwater.
And yet he knows better than anyone that for as purgative a moment this Super Bowl win was in civic history, it won't wash away the city's lingering blights. Too many of them are clustered in the Ninth, where roads are unsmooth and unlit, houses stay unoccupied and in disrepair and some residents still haggle with insurance companies and the government for money.
No, the Saints' win doesn't fix any of those problems. But what it does do is give one stranger a reason to embrace another, young impetus to join in song with an old and the whole city an occasion to show just what a staggeringly beautiful place this can be when everyone comes together for a common cause.
Of course there invariably will be some who will have seen similarly ideal snapshots of New Orleans on TV and will forget them just as quickly as they flashed on the screen. For the rest of us who were here, the images won't just last a lifetime, they may well define it.