Tag Archives: Saints

Happy Birthday Emily

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.

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Death and the Fairy

Late as usual for my Ash Wednesday installment, and now bump . . . this Mardi Gras Fairy has come down to earth. The details of my costume are so rich with nuance, I almost can’t render them here. Well okay, I’ll try. I wore a high pointed cone hat, covered in pink silk, draped with a sheer ecru veil and secured with a long pale green ribbon beneath my chin. Down below I wore an old pink satin strapless prom dress that I found at Thrift City, only I had massacred this dress so that the skirt rose in a large padded poof around my waist. I also glued a hundred or so lavender silk flower petals to the dress so they flapped in the breeze as I walked. (Never underestimate a girl with a glue gun.) Even farther down below I wore pink lace knickers, a shocking red garter, pale pink and hot pink striped stockings, and a pair of pink patent leather Converse high-top sneakers with white trim. I was a riot of pink.

Geoff said he’d never be able to take me seriously again after seeing me in this get-up. I consider this a small loss in the scheme of things, as I had already relinquished my dignity long ago. Or maybe that was my shame I heard whistling out the window. Can’t be sure, but I am missing at least one of these.

On Mardi Gras morning this Pink Fairy danced with Death in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The Treme Brass Band blasted away, while the crazy Christians marched up and down with their scary signs and shouted, “The wages of sin are death!” “No!” I wanted to answer, “The wages of sin are bladder infections!” They wouldn’t listen. No matter. “Hell for the company,” I always say.

I like dancing with Death. He’s strong, confident and doesn’t care who’s looking. Nor is he particularly flustered by the crazy Christians. Death just smiles and waits. He is patient and compassionate. He may shake your hand. The great leveler, he accepts everyone. This year, however, Death wore a Saints helmet just to show where his true heart lies, and that should explain how that “sudden death” coin toss in the Vikings game went in our favor. Death hovers over Chance. Don’t kid yourself. Plus Death loves the Saints because the Saints embrace Death with gladness. Whatever they do, the Saints are willing to die in order to do it. Certainly, they have died enough in the past to know what that means. Death rewards the Saints for entering into a conscious relationship with the end of life by making them brave and therefore invincible. It is the awareness of Death that pleases him. Death only wants to be recognized and appreciated. What any of us wants.

It should be noted here as well that Death has an appetite for Pink Fairies. He takes them with tea and toast in the morning. That is if he can catch one before she transforms into a cloud of smoke.

You might expect Emily to have tossed out her classic: “Because I could not stop for Death —/ He kindly stopped for me —” You know, that old “Death as the Courtly Gentleman” thing that she does. Nah, too obvious. Instead, she sent the following:

#885, c. 1864

Our little Kinsmen — after Rain
In plenty may be seen,
A Pink and Pulpy multitude
The tepid Ground upon.

A needless life, it seemed to me
Until a little Bird
As to a Hospitality
Advanced and breakfasted.

As I of He, so God of Me
I pondered, may have judged,
And left the little Angle Worm
With Modesties enlarged.

Emily affects a faux innocence here. The repetition of “little” is awfully twee. At first glance, the poem seems like a harmless appreciation of nature and the beauty of the world. But look closer. Emily says that we are great and useful to God in the same way that the worm is great and useful to the bird—as food. He made us to be part of this cycle of eating and feeding, living, dying and fertilizing the earth. Don’t kid yourself. This “modesties enlarged” business is her grim joke. Modesty itself is a false pose. Arrogance hides behind the phony face of philosophy, theology, and other intellectual contrivances designed to separate us from an awareness of death. Humans always put themselves at the top of the food chain, in order to see themselves as closest to God. What folly, muses Emily.

Thank you, Emily for reminding us that our soft pink flesh is no better and no different than the pulpy mass on the ground. That we are all worm’s meat in the end. You are weird, Emily, and morbid. Still, I like you.

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Afterglow

Sorry, I have been absent from the page for so long. Life has gotten awfully busy what with parties and parades and such. Last night was Muses, Hermes and Krewe d’Etat. We are in the alternate reality called “Carnival Season” where nothing counts but everything matters. So a few missed blog posts, along with other “important” deadlines, won’t go amiss.

We here in New Orleans are still awash in stunned joy. The Bless You Boys returned victorious from the Super Bowl. Did it really happen? And how did it happen? Yes. And who knows?

Here’s what I think happened. Everyone with any sense, including the Leader of the Free World, said that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback in the history of the universe. He’s impossible to beat. The Colts are invincible because they are led by this fantastic football genius. The Saints made a good effort getting there, but folks . . . c’mon get serious. They don’t stand a chance against the formidable skills of Manning, who is a super-game-strategy-devising computer that happens to travel around inside the body of a man. Yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda.

(Frankly, I don’t want to hear any more about it. In this game, Brees made 32 out of 39 pass completions. That’s an 82% success rate for those of you not quick with math. Say what you like, but that’s an arm.)

And you know what? Manning is great. Several times during the game, even Geoff remarked on a Manning-delivered, surgical pass, “Wow, that was a great throw.” I had to ask him to please stop complimenting the opposition’s arm. You won’t find a more passionate and faithful Saints devotee than Geoff, but even he felt moved by the sheer beauty of Manning’s precision. Genius has that effect on people. But you know what works even better than genius? Poetry.

Drew Brees is the poet because he makes non-ordinary connections. While Manning is the prodigious machine, Brees is the inspired maniac. He never does what anyone expects him to do. In that vein, Porter intercepted the pass because he had studied the film, and he knew Manning would throw low, not high, because Manning always throws low in that play. Sure enough, Manning did exactly what was expected of him, like any good computer, which is why Porter got in there to take the ball away and run 72 yards for the touchdown that handed the world championship to the Saints. That was not luck, but a lovely case of preparation meets opportunity meets sympatico meets gumbo. Manning has no mystery to him. Brees and his Saints are redolent with mystery and mysticism. Here is the dark, inexplicable ground, that undiscovered country of intuition that gives rise to poems and nutty on-side kicks at the opening of the second half. Poets win against computers every time because they play with pure moxie.

The Belle of Amherst made this observation of our Saintly revelation.

# 254, c. 1861

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

While I visited my family in Maryland for Christmas a few weeks ago, I needed to check on the Saints’ progress in the game against the Buccaneers. So I asked my brother to check the score for me on NFL.com.

He said, “Who are you? And what have you done with my sister?”

True, this preoccupation is a little out of character for me, but you’d have to be made of stone to resist the Saints this year. I comprise many elements, but stone is not one of them.

Although I am, relatively speaking, a latecomer to the Passion of the New Orleans Saints, I can hear the forty-three years of hoping. It rings most loud when I listen to men talk about this Super Bowl game. These are men, born and convicted, native New Orleanians, over the age of 43 or thereabouts, who have spent all their years, watching their beloved team bumble, stumble, reach and fall, and then reach again. (They remember Archie Manning running for his life.) Now these men talk with a glow in their voices. A whole city of grown men, speak the free and weightless song of boys, buoyant with real optimism. Not imagined, nor merely hoped for, now that joy is truth. Their faces belie their age, but their voices ring like new bells. The hope that Emily named in her poem echoes behind their song. The inextinguishable hope of these men, has cracked open and flows into real-time. That hope was the low grounding tone, the uterine contraction, a fierce muscling into the world of this now fully realized, three-dimensional, undeniable truth: The Saints Do Not Suck.

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