Super Bowl Sunday. February 7, 2010, 2:00 p.m.

If the hereafter has a switchboard, it’s jammed today.

There are prayers going out to the saints, for the New Orleans Saints. St. Jude might be getting a break this afternoon. He heard pleas for four decades, I’ll bet, for that lost cause of a football team.

My own grandfather requested divine intervention for his home team, year after year. Some weekends, I sat within earshot of him and my uncles as they shouted and prayed. Lord, the noise! Dear Blessed Mother, the fumbles and fouls! In my smart-mouthed youth, I might have asked aloud why they continued to cheer every season for such losers. I am almost certain I, too, muttered the slur, The Ain’ts. All involved, please accept my apology.

Tonight, Paw Paw, this one’s for you.

Saints 1987

Let me disclose that I’m not a sports fan. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care at all about the Super Bowl.

This time, it’s personal.

For weeks, the Saints’ winning season has been part of conversation, TV interviews, and social networking posts. It’s been impossible not to feel a little energy from the possibility that this year, my home state’s NFL team could go the distance.

What I noticed—beyond the typical sports fervor—is how often people have invoked the names of loved ones. Wistful wishes that departed family and friends had lived to see this day. Affectionate musings of what those dead might be doing in Heaven, what game-changing powers they might have now on the other side. Maybe such a phenomenon happens everywhere. Maybe it’s not some peculiar Southern thing. Regardless, you wouldn’t believe the tear-filled eyes and wavering voices. It’s really touching.

I can’t help myself either.

Hours before the game, I think of the living and the dead, my uncles who get to watch a wish fulfilled and my grandfather who surely hoped such a day would come.

Dare I? I’ll do it for them…Who Dat?!

Aside from family and friends, here and beyond, the Saints’ part in the Super Bowl is a moment to be proud of my state.

That tells me I, too, am capable of a little old-fashioned, vicarious, collective symbol making. Today, the Saints stand for us all. The team’s accomplishment—win or lose tonight—is ours as well. It’s a reward for decades of perseverance, gumption, and nerve. It will shadow all the lists we’ve topped for all the things we wish we didn’t. (Louisiana’s record could be better in some areas.) It will soothe the sting of many who endure memories of a horrible storm and the rebuilding left to do.

The Saints stand for me, and I can’t even believe I’m admitting it. I can’t believe that some ancient, tribal, familial pride stirs in my chest and puts a smile on my face.

8:49 p.m.

Ain’ts no more.

Outside my quiet house, neighbors are screaming at the top of their lungs, “We won the Super Bowl!” Firecrackers are exploding in waves. I can only imagine what’s going on in New Orleans and Heaven right now.

I watched the miracle of the intercepted pass and the 74 yard run to a touchdown. Yes, I even shouted and clapped as it was happening. I thought of my grandfather, wherever he is, and my uncles half-crazed with joy. The win was imminent, then final. I turned to my partner, native Louisianan as well, and said to him, “Oh my God, the Saints won the Super Bowl.”

This was a long time in coming, an answer to many, many prayers, a reward for all those fans who supported the team with faith, hope, and loyalty. There’s a joyful noise, and a few toasts, reaching up for the Saints tonight.

I guarantee my grandfather has his hands and voice raised high.

 

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RONLYN DOMINGUE (pronounced ron-lin doh-mang, equal emphasis on all syllables) is the author of The Mapmaker's War and The Chronicle of Secret Riven, Books 1 and 2 of the Keeper of Tales Trilogy. The third book is forthcoming in 2017. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in ten languages. Her writing has appeared in The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books), New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Delta Review, The Independent UK, Border Crossing, and Shambhala Sun, as well as on mindful.org, The Nervous Breakdown, and Salon.com. She holds a MFA degree in creative writing from Louisiana State University. Born and raised in the Deep South, she lives there still.

Connect online at ronlyndomingue.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

62 responses to “I Hope My Grandfather Watched as the Saints Marched In”

  1. Mary McMyne says:

    As you know, I don’t follow football either, but we went to a Superbowl party tonight and cheered the Saints on for New Orleans!

  2. Mary McMyne says:

    And you put the right words on it – it is an ancient, familial, tribal pride. You can see it on the faces of our guys, in their body language, when they dance a little in the end zone. So strange, that I can feel this, when I am more than a little wary of it too!

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      We’d be less than human if we didn’t pick up on the excitement. It’s not like we were being incited to violence or anything….this was the Light side of tribalism. Yet I have felt to compulsion to don a T-shirt. Sorry, Paw Paw.

  3. James says:

    Lovely ronlyn… Who Dat????

  4. New Orleans Lady says:

    I loved this.
    I’m still too teary-eyed to leave a proper comment but one is in the works. Thank you for your words.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      This heartfelt comment is plenty! The city we love is a happy place today.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I kept thinking about you during the game.

      I was totally supporting the Saints, but they were so frustrating in the first half. Also, the way the Colts walked on— specifically Manning— they looked like they’d already won.

      It was brilliant though. I especially love that just before Manning got picked off and the Saints scored the BBC pundit said ‘this game still hasn’t had a really big, vital play or error…’ brilliant.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    I’m no sports fan.. but this was so touching and lovely.
    I love the passion that sport can bring. Even though I know very little about any sport, and usually care even less, I have been moved to tears by our national rugby team when they do a haka (tribal war dance) before an international match.
    On the other hand, I have also called our national league team ‘The Warriors’ – ‘The Sorriers’ on occasion.
    I bet your Paw Paw is smiling down big time on you, lovely Ronlyn.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      I must YouTube search for this tribal dance. Fascinating! Your note about the unfortunate nickname just made me think about how much projection people place on sports teams–the good and the bad. My grandfather’s cheeks hurt from smiling!

      • Zara Potts says:

        Here’s an example of our national rugby team ‘The All Blacks’ doing a haka against Australia. They perform a haka before every game and they are spine chilling to watch… Well, maybe for kiwis anyway!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctA0dx-1cDQ

        • Matt says:

          Damn, that was cool.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          It’s just a shame that every time they get to a World Cup they choke…

          The Haka is still terrifying though…

        • Zara Potts says:

          I know, Jim! Every bloody time!! But it is amazing how much people love the haka.. even the French!
          Matt: Isn’t it though?!

        • Matt says:

          I want to learn that. Seriously.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I actually like New Zealand. I always find it weird how some really good team— teams that are consistenlty good— are so prone to choking, like it’s fate.

          In soccer for example, Spain and Holland always produce fantastic teams, but they can never bloody win the World Cup…

          when is the next world cup? next year?

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          That is some PRIMAL sports psychology in action. I sorta backed away from the computer screen! That last throat slit bit. *shudder* Thanks for posting it, Zara.

        • Zara Potts says:

          That’s actually the 2nd Haka. The main and most popular one doesn’t have the throat slitting. It’s truly amazing when two south pacific teams come together like NZ and say, Samoa or Fiji, because both teams have their own haka’s and they challenge each other on the field. It’s quite amazing. It’s also amazing how popular this is right around the world. Recently, in international matches stadium crowds have tried to drown out the haka by singing, but they never quite qipe out the mighty power of it!!!
          Oh god, I sound like a nationalistic kiwi!!

        • Zara Potts says:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJuoP_4Ubp8

          Here’s an example of the South Pacific Haka’s between NZ and Tonga.
          (Sorry Ronlyn, for hijacking!)

        • Anon says:

          Hijacking things one step further (and apologizing as well, Ronlyn), I am grateful, Zara, that I found a only letterbomb on my virtual front porch rather than these gentlemen! (This is where I would normally insert a smiling emoticon but I really detest the graphic that shows up when I do so… picture a smile.)

          Very cool vids!

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          Are you kidding? Hijack away. I’ve never seen that before. Quite the cultural exchange. Ha. I was surprise to connect the bent knee, leg spread position as a sort of modified yoga “Goddess Pose.”

  6. Simon Smithson says:

    Talk about a picture saying a thousand words… Paw Paw is doubtless the happiest man in heaven today.

  7. Alison Aucoin says:

    Damn you Ronlyn Domingue. I’m crying, again. You know what my relationship with my dad was like, but even I’ve thought I wish he’d lived to see this. I was excited about the game but it honestly never occurred to me that they’d actually win. That run after the interception was so (I know this is an odd description) elegant. It took me a minute to compute that they were actually about to WIN. And Drew Brees tearing up as he held his baby son afterwards was just gorgeous. I want to have some kind of a moment like that with my daughter.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      I didn’t mean to make you cry. Really. I had a similar reaction after the interception. I kept looking at the clock and doing math in my head, trying to figure out if it was possible for the other team to score enough to win. It was surreal.

      This morning, I saw a still shot of Brees and the baby. So cute. Imagine what stories that little boy will hear as he grows up.

      We’ll have to think of an alternative to winning the Super Bowl for you and Wee One.

  8. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    This is enough to turn me into a lifelong Saints fan. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. Brad Listi says:

    My parents are both Louisiana born and bred. Mom comes from a family of nine; Dad from a family of four. I have nearly 30 first cousins down there…grew up going down there every year, always for the holidays. I had family at the game yesterday in Miami. I had uncles text messaging me as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

    Here’s one message, verbatim, from my Uncle Henry:

    The Sisters of the Carmelite Order were praying hard, too much prayer, faith, and a touch of voodoo!

    My parents sent me a phone pic of themselves, shortly after the game. They were at a Super Bowl party, in Saints gear, holding Saints helium balloons.

    **

    Further complicating matters is the fact that I spent part of my childhood in Indiana and am therefore a Colts fan, too.

    Weird to have two teams you like in the Super Bowl. You win and lose no matter what.

    But hey: This was the Saints’ year.

    And all I gotta say is: Best. Super Bowl. Parade. Ever.

    Laissez les bon temps roulez!

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Oh, man, you know this stuff in your blood, too. The sisters of the Carmelite Order! Ahhh! Put a voice to that text message and it would have been my grandfather saying it. Classic Catholic Louisiana.

      Looks like you really had a win-win either way.

      The good times are rolling like mad!

      P.S. Where did your folks grow up?

    • New Orleans Lady says:

      I love that text, Brad!

      Booooo, to your Colts love!

      You should be here this Tuesday!! Special SAINTS parade going all through the city. All players, coaches, and staff will be aboard. Who Dat, baby!!

      PS-I think I have cried every hour on the hour since their win. I can’t help it. All the pictures and media are helping in my tears. Priceless.

  10. Carole Gatza says:

    I am so glad your Dad sent us the link to your article. Loved it even though it made me cry! Yesterday we talked about my son in law’s late father and how he must be enjoying watching the game and the final outcome. Thanks for a great story! Can’t wait for your next book!

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Thanks, Carole! It’s quite something how many of us are thinking about loved ones because of the Saints’ winning season. I never would have expected something like that, but there you go. Lots of love in the air. (Novel #2 continues its journey to completion.)

  11. Matt says:

    That was a great, great game. And a well-deserved win.

    There isn’t a whole lot of love lost between me and the city of New Orleans, but damn if I didn’t wish I was back there yesterday. It’s about 10:00 am in California right now, and based on the texts/emails I’m getting from my friends back there, many of them are still up partying.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Yeah, you two have a bit of a history… Regardless, you GET why it was such a profound moment. Might I add that it’s so appropriate that this happened during Mardi Gras season.

  12. Greg Olear says:

    Great post, Ronlyn.

    The collective energy you speak of, for wont of a better word, is what makes sports so great. The carpetbagging basketball squad notwithstanding, NOLA doesn’t have another pro sports franchise, so it makes the Saints that much more important. When the Giants or Yankees win, it’s really just another day at the office in NYC. But in New Orleans? Different story.

    From a football standpoint: although that pick (what Bill Simmons calls a “TAINT”: touchdown after interception) sealed the deal, the miracle play in the game was the onside kick. That’s where Brad’s Carmelite nuns and the souls of the dead came into play. Sean Payton, wow.

    One wonders whether Peyton Manning, who grew up in New Orleans, in some small way found it hard to compete against the Saints. I’m sure he doesn’t like to lose, but it must make it easier losing against his old man’s squad.

    • New Orleans Lady says:

      We have the HORNETS!!

      • Greg Olear says:

        Yes, the aforementioned carpetbagging basketball squad…albeit one with Chris Paul. They haven’t been there long enough to have the same emotional import as the Saints, though, right?

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      I stand corrected about the miracle moment!

      Re: Manning. Talk about torn loyalties. No doubt he gave it his all during the game, but a part of him must be a bit joyful on the Saints’ behalf. I mean, he remembers the old era.

  13. Emilie says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this!! You have a way of putting things that is like no one else and I always enjoy seeing things, especially familiar things, through your eyes. “I can only imagine what’s going on in New Orleans and Heaven right now.” That was my favorite party. New Orleans was craaaaaaazy in a blissed, blessed and wonderful way. I was shocked it wasn’t snowing when I woke up today. 🙂

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      When Hell freezes over, there’s no guarantee of snow. Ha! Quite possibly, the veil between this world and the next lifted, and the party in New Orleans was far more crowded than anyone could see. I’m glad you had such a terrific night! You deserved some fun.

      • David Delhomme says:

        My brother Ronnie, would have been so proud of you if he were still with us an dwould have enjoyed reading your article. I like to think that he and Dazoe are celebrating with the Saints right now!

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          What a surprise to see your name and comment here! I was so fond of Mr. Ron! No doubt he would have written something wonderful himself. These last few days have been special ones to think about those we miss. I hope he and my grandfather whooped it up. Thanks for reading, Mr. David.

  14. Emilie says:

    That’s a great idea for a short story – the spirits of the departed partying alongside the living. ;”) In a city like New Orleans, it’s harder to think they weren’t with us–how could they miss celebrating with us! I believe it.

  15. […] making my grandfather a happy, happy man. He’s not resting in peace tonight. She linked to a wonderful, wonderful Nervous Breakdown piece that truly encapsulates the feeling in the city today (which should be made a state holiday, or at […]

  16. Irene Zion says:

    Ronlyn,

    When my dad died, the mets made it to the world series.
    My mother watched every single game.
    And they won.
    I think it was my dad pulling for them.
    He was a real, dyed-in-the-wool fan.
    (And he was pulling for them in heaven, for chrissake!)

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Yes, you understand this whole thing, too. There’s something so sweet and poignant about your mom watching those games. Your dad got to see a dream come true, just in a different place.

  17. Richard Cox says:

    As Greg stated above, this is what makes sports more than just a bunch of lazy dudes sitting around watching ESPN all hours of the day. In the right context, almost anyone can get caught up in the spirit of it. The “tribal, familial pride” as you called it.

    Congratulations to your team. And your grandfather!

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Several years ago, a friend of mine went to a big football game. The fans in the stadium did The Wave, which she did along with everyone else. Her account was a blend of horror, fascination, and pleasure. Then she said she finally understood how people could get swept up into riots and political movements. It was a force stronger than the individual.

      Sometimes, that force is a positive one.

      The Saints really do deserve the congratulations.

  18. jmblaine says:

    If any state in the Union needed a boost
    it’s Louisiana.
    If any city in Louisiana needed it –
    It’s New Orleans.

    I’m from South Louisiana as well.
    Good for the Saints
    good for Louisiana.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Those are words of truth, fellow child of the Deep South. It was like a moment of respite from chronic pain.

  19. New Orleans Lady says:

    It’s amazing to me how many of my TNB peeps have ties to my beloved New Orleans. You guys should have been here today. Heaven on Earth.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      A friend told me that a close friend of hers who lives on the Northshore took her children to the parades. The kids were cold and wanted to go, but they stayed. I said, “Of course they had to stay. Look how many years it took for this to happen. One day, they’ll hear the story and understand.”

      I hope those positive, friendly feelings stick around New Orleans for a long while. A relative in Denver said that when that team won the Superbowl a few years ago, people were turning over cars and creating mayhem.

  20. kristen says:

    Nice! And the fact that you’re not a neck-deep sports fan makes it all the more powerful. Here’s to ancient, primal, familial pride.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Thanks, Kristen. The experience had special meaning for me, no doubt. I STILL get a kick out of Saints stuff that family and friends are forwarding around.

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