Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Outside the Aviary: "After the Laughter, Comes the Tears."
Anyone else see Dikembe Mutombo during the State of the Union? Since when do large scale Republican leaders allow black people anywhere near them?
(Tommy Jeff doesn't care how much money's in yr grill, 'cause his grill is on the money.)
It was pretty bizarre to see Mutombo enjoying such high company, and being referenced as the American dream in the same breath as failing health care and a global war on terror. It doesn't so much speak for the power of sports as it does the power of distraction.
Case in point, I watched the Saints-Bears game in a bar full of Saints fans. More often than you would believe, I had people telling me how good it would be for New Orleans if the Saints won the Super Bowl. At one point, I had to ask:
'Who would it help, really?"
"Well, you know-- the people."
"How? Help them forget, you mean?"
"No, I mean, it would lift their spirits."
"Oh, yeah. Cool. Call me when it lifts their fucking houses."
I know. I know. This is a bleak world view, and my negativity is in full view of the tens of people who read this blog. You have to admit, though, that the Super Bowl would not have improved funding, increased housing or helped displaced citizens (read: refugees) still unable to get to their original homelands. A win for the Saints would've been a lot of fun, but other than the heightened self-awareness of some anchormen and some feel-good stories about millionaires tossing money on a disaster, how can anyone convince me that sports helps heal wounds?
OK. Having said that, I'm not dismissing the power of escape. Fleeting moments of happiness are a wonderful escape from the drudgery of disaster. And sure, the area could use a break. The Bears win, however, has NO bearing on the healing process overall. When the Red Sox won the world series, my Grandfather (born July 1919, deceased July 2004) was not raised from the dead. He was not magically lifted from my mind as a burden. Nor was he forgotten. The only thing I could do was know that he would've liked to see his team win a World Series. New Orleans would have enjoyed themselves, the city would have felt alive, but Bush's speech tonight would have still needed a mention of their city's reconstruction efforts.
As Chicago celebrated, all I could think of was the 2001 World Series. Baseball fans worldwide were hoping for the Yankees to win, "to ease the burden of the September 11th attacks." When Arizona won, I felt no pity for the players or the denizens of NYC (even now as one of them). I feel no remorse for cheering for the Diamondbacks then, nor putting five bucks on the Bears now. Sports are not the great healer. A Saints Super Bowl victory (like a Yanks World Series win) would've been the equivalent of a "Get Well Soon" card to a terminally ill patient. In my mind, the reopening of the Superdome was a better "feel good" story.
In a way, The Saints loss is a better vehicle to Katrina's calamity. If not as cleansing, at least the city can regain focus. The city can look away from the idyllic millionaire heroes and toward it's own displaced families. Hope is sometimes dangerous in it's ability to destroy realism. Realistically, there is no way for me to believe that the Saints have any bearing on New Orleans other than an excuse to get away from a problem. The same importance was placed tonight on Mr. Mutombo-- forget about the shabbiness of Bush's argument for privatization, debt mongering and failed missions and listen to this fantastic story of triumph. Though it is not as glamorous as victory, regret, failure and remembering are the better ways to combat catastrophe.
Dikembe is a great story. Drew Brees would've been a fantastic distraction. However, the Saints aren't heroes. I don't think they would be in victory either.