Today is Emily’s birthday. She is 180 years old, bless her sweet heart, and a Sagittarius, which is the ideal “partnership” placement for a Gemini like me. At least that’s what people say. I don’t listen to rumors.
I have not been writing about the Saints this fall because it has been such a weird season for our “Bless You Boys”. On the anniversary of her birth, Emily suggested the following:
#1541, c. 1882
No matter where the Saints abide,
They make their Circuit fair
Behold how great a Firmament
Accompanies a Star
So far, this season the only half-way intelligent noise raised by the talking heads in the NFL “commentators league” has been: Why the deafening silence about the defending World Champions? We’re all wondering that. The Saints are the reigning Superbowl Champions, and yet they are still being treated like some unlikely and ignorable upstart potential loser. The answer may be that it’s been a really weird season.
You could chalk it up to the fact that they opened with Mercury retrograde. Even taking the sky into account, most would have to agree that—although a nine and three record is nothing to sneeze at—those early losses were embarrassing. Hartley muffed the field goal that would have won the game against the Atlanta Falcons, an easy 29-yard field goal. We’re still scratching our heads over that one because Hartley loves those 48-yard field goals. (??) Then the Boys lost to the Cleveland Browns, a team with a terrible record, a team that hasn’t been able to do much of anything this season except beat the defending World Champions. I guess that’s why they call it a game, to paraphrase Zen Master Drew Brees.
The third loss was a legitimate hard-fought engagement with the Arizona Cardinals that we don’t need to discuss here.
Those other two losses, however, are what’s known as “embarrassments”. The words we save for those are “silly” and “unnecessary”. It was as if the Ghost of Saints Past had come back to haunt us for a couple of games. A taste of the old days. Just to keep us mindful of . . . what? That it stinks to lose. And it really stinks to lose for embarrassing reasons.
If that’s not weird enough, the Saints’ winning games have also been embarrassing, like the Cinncinati Bengals last week. (Geoff calls them the Bungles, which is cruel but accurate.) Sure the Saints won but only just, and only after making a lot of bad mistakes. Twelve men on the field? C’mon! That’s strictly amateur hour. The Thanksgiving game against Dallas? The Boys squeaked by in the end, but only after allowing a 17-point lead to evaporate into nothing. This is weird. Maybe they’re haunted. Or maybe it’s just a touch of the Sophomore Slump. Whatever it is, they better snap out of it because we don’t have time to waste. Embarrassing losses are bad enough, but embarrassing wins are actually worse. Those haunt your conscience and make celebration feel hollow.
It is hard to feel triumphant, when we know they won by accident or by means of the other team’s momentary incompetence. For example, drawing the Bengals offsides in the final 30 seconds of the game for a 5-yard penalty and a first down. Okay, Drew still had to throw that picture-book pass to Colston for the touchdown. And no one handed that balletic perfection to them. It was their own true beauty that we have come to expect from the Brees-Colston mojo. Still, what it took to get there was embarrassing in the haplessness of it all. If the Bengals had just managed to just stay in control of themselves for a FEW SECONDS and NOT MOVE off the line, they would have won. If the Saints have to depend on the other team’s ridiculous lack of discipline to win, then it’s a hollow victory.
A lot of fellas around here wake up Monday morning and say: “I’ll take the win.” After this season is over, no one will remember the embarrassments, only who won. That phrase, “I’ll take the win” is a rueful acknowledgment that some wins are not a source of unalloyed joy. Further that “win” focus works against Brees’ own Zen-like philosophical emphasis on “process” over “outcome”. The process matters . . . if it’s important to like yourself at the end. Guru Drew has said in so many words: It matters less that you get there than how you get there.
I have to agree with him, and Emily does too. Process makes the difference between a Saint and an ordinary mortal. Both die in the same way in the end. Both are made of vulgar flesh that will rot and fall away. The difference between a Saint and you or me is that the Saint’s progress through mortal life is illuminated by a quality of character and devotion that elevates the vulgar body above its mean concerns.
Process matters. Don’t just take the win. Don’t be satisfied with a hollow victory; it’s a lie. I know why Guru Drew and Payton are not thrilled with their own progress this season and why no one is handing them any bouquets just yet. They are not living up to their own name, and they know it.
There are a number of important games still left in the season. The Rams this weekend—I’ll be there! Then the Ravens—nevermore! Then after Christmas, the looming Falcons again. Geoff and I are going to Atlanta for that one. It’s official. I’m in the club.
So we are entering a lovely season of miracles, which also progresses beneath yet another Mercury retrograde. That means: review, reconsider, re-wind, re-work, renew. I wish all of us a careful and deliberate consideration of process. Do you like yourself after your accomplishments? Not because of these accomplishments, but are you happy with how you got there? Pause, examine, rinse, repeat.