Super Bowl boycott second line New Orleans

A big crowd forms in Jackson Square at the beginning of a Super Bowl boycott second line.

I once heard someone say you can tell the measure of a man by the size of the problem it takes to discourage him. New Orleans Saints fans had every reason to wallow in discouragement and self-pity. We were unjustly robbed of the rarest of opportunities of going to the Super Bowl.

And not just any Super Bowl. We were denied the chance to beat the greatest coach/quarterback combo in NFL history. The match up would have been perfect. Two signal-callers with most of the league’s passing records, ours 40 years old, theirs 41. The Drew Brees/Tom Brady matchup would have made the game one for the ages. In a sport that spits out and discards aging players, Brees and Brady are the exception. To see them go head-to-head in the biggest game of the year, two of the best of all time? It was almost too good to be true.

And yet one no-call, one inexplicable dereliction of duty by a ref whose pure incompetence and ineptness will be something Saints fans will bitterly remember for decades, denied us all our moment in the spotlight. Or did it?

One could argue the city of New Orleans made history this past Sunday. Not on the field, but in the hearts of a nation. Thousands of fans flooded downtown to once and for all prove the resiliency, toughness and tenaciousness of New Orleanians. The pictures of the masses were stunning and far more impressive than the mediocrity on display in Atlanta. The national media took notice:

  • “New Orleans did things right. This looked a heckuva lot more exciting than the actual Super Bowl, of which there were very few winners. A miserably slow, punt-filled championship game didn’t see a touchdown until the fourth quarter. But Saints fans will have something to remember. This was an impressive gathering. And it wasn’t like boring old Super Bowl 53.” — SB Nation.
  • “Boycott Bowl, the creation of heartbroken Saints fans, proved that nothing — not even a devastating no-call snatching away their team's chance at a spot in the NFL's big game — can get in the way of a New Orleans party.” — CNN.
  • “Rather than burn cars or smash windows over the non-call heard around the world in the NFC Championship game, which likely denied the Saints a berth in the Super Bowl, they sang and danced.” — The New York Post.
  • “This city doesn’t expect anyone to understand. And frankly, it doesn’t care. Just like there is no place on earth like New Orleans, no place on earth heals, perseveres, responds and finds the joy in heartache and sadness like New Orleans. So when it comes to the aftermath of The Game That Must Not Be Mentioned and Sunday’s outright fraudulent Super Bowl, well, the city did its thing: It refused to watch the 'big' game. Instead, it came together. It rejoiced. It celebrated a glorious Saints season that was stolen from it.” — Yahoo News.
  • “Many NFL teams around the U.S. have rabid fan bases, but few are as inextricably linked to their cities as the Saints are to New Orleans.” — NBC News.

This year’s Super Bowl suffered its lowest national ratings in ten years. What a shame. But that’s what you get when everyone knows one of the teams wasn’t supposed to be there. I wonder if CBS might have fared better in the ratings if they had live coverage of the “Boycott Bowl.”

It certainly was more entertaining, meaningful and legit.

But really the story here is not the game or even the lost Saints season that held such promise. What’s important to note is Louisianans take on adversity, setbacks, and injustice directly and don’t blink. They don’t feel sorry for themselves or sit at home and sulk. They took to the streets this past Sunday to show the nation it takes more than an incomprehensible bad call to get them down. We deal with hurricanes, mosquitoes the size of birds, snakes, humidity so oppressive our sweat sweats.

A blind, incompetent clueless ref? Is that all you got, Roger Goodell?

Email Dan Fagan at Twitter: @DanFaganShow.