Friday, September 09, 2005


Saints fan or not, check this out

It was on his way back to San Antonio that Stallworth received a text message from teammate Joe Horn, who had been visiting evacuees at the Astrodome. Horn had gone to try and lift people's spirits, and instead ended up having his own outlook on the 2005 NFL season completely changed.

"I talked to the people," the message read, "they want us to ride … we gotta ride … let's get a handle on our business … and then let's ride for the people."

See, I do believe that there are times when sports transcend the playing field and perpetuate something more than just a silly game. But I figured Katrina would most likely ruin that theory. After such cataclysmic devastation, such chaos, anguish and human suffering, who could possibly care about something as inconsequential as the NFL?
These people, that's who.

The reaction to Stallworth was immediate, warm and visceral. You could feel spirits lifting when people saw a member of their football team or, more likely, just a small piece of their hometown standing before them. Practically knocked over by well wishers, Stallworth kept telling evacuees to "be strong … stay strong" and oddly enough, they repeated the same prayer right back to him and the team.

As he walked around, from cot to cot and person to person, the pendulum swung from hope to horror and back to hope again. Stallworth was left nearly speechless by the experience. But later, teammate Willie Whitehead put it this way: "A lot of these folks lost everything. They lost their house. All their possessions. And in some cases, their entire family. The Saints are, literally, all they have left to cling to. We're all they've got."

"The Saints are the only piece of home we have left," Richardson said. "A lot of us are watching and thinking, 'OK then, if the Saints are still fighting, then I'm gonna keep fighting too.' I've watched this team since the moment I could turn on a TV. And maybe we did wear bags on our heads at one point, but even during the tough times we never turned our back on this team. Now they're showing us that even during the tough times they won't turn their backs on us, either."

As one fan put it, just as Stallworth was exiting the shelter, "We just need our Saints now more than ever."

"We marching now, March us back!" came another voice.

"New Orleans might be gone, but the Saints are still here!" shouted another woman.

"Bring us back to life," pleaded one man watching Stallworth leave. "Bring us back to life."
Outside, with the orange sun baking a spot on the horizon, Stallworth slowly made his way back to his car. You could tell he didn't want to leave.

"It's unbelievable man," he said. "Unbelievable. We're playing for so much more now. So much more. We have a purpose now. And we have to get it done. For these people. We don't have a choice, we have to."

Go read the whole article. Now.

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