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Ain’t Dat A Shame

The above headline was borrowed from The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. It sums up my feelings after the New Orleans Saints’ quest for an undefeated season came to an end at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night.

I refuse to pay extra for the NFL Network, so I found myself listening to one of America’s great radio stations, WWL-AM in New Orleans, late Saturday night as the Saints attempted to make a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against the Cowboys.

Trailing 24-3 and having played poorly for most of the night, the Saints scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns on consecutive possessions. Then, as if a higher power were looking down on the Saints, Dallas kicker Nick Folk missed a 24-yard field goal attempt that would have given the Cowboys an unsurmountable 10-point lead with 2:16 remaining.

It was the same scenario that had occurred two weeks earlier on the road against the Washington Redskins when the Saints scored late to send the game to overtime and then won.

“When we walked out on that field, just down seven with 2:16 left, we felt like there was no doubt we were going to score and send it into OT,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.

This time, however, it was not to be. Ain’t dat a shame.

Here’s how Mike Triplett began his game story in The Times-Picayune: “The magic finally ran out. The New Orleans Saints nearly pulled off another miracle in the final minutes of a 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night at the Superdome, but this time, when they reached into their bag of tricks, it was finally empty.”

And here’s how Peter Finney began his column in the newspaper: “To me, it was simply a case of America’s Team spoiling America’s Dream. I say this thinking there were enough newly converted Who Dats around the country caught up in the melancholy history of a star-crossed franchise riding a magic carpet to a perfect season. That was the dream. It was a dream terminated by a group of Dallas Cowboys dedicated to ending December miseries and playing their way into another postseason. Now the more realistic dream, a Super Bowl dream, remains.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is that the nation is seeing — through the many news stories generated by this team — that good things finally are happening in New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina. As slow and maddening as the rebuilding has been, there’s significant progress being made.

If this team helps people in places like Des Moines and Boston realize that fact — if it helps them decide to visit New Orleans and spend money — then the Saints have provided a great service.

A feature in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times by Richard Fausset recalled one of my all-time favorite radio shows, “The Point After” with Buddy Diliberto on WWL. Fausset describes the late Buddy D. as a “sports journalist and racetrack habitue who presided over sessions of communal grieving, vented frustration and gallows humor.”

He writes: “The show was often more entertaining than the games, as callers adopted elaborate pseudonymous characters and filled the airwaves with the odd linguistic box of chocolates that constitutes spoken English in south Louisiana. Diliberto himself spoke in a deep, garbled version of New Orleans’ Brooklyn-ish brogue, peppering his commentary with malapropisms — quarterback Kenny ‘The Snake’ Stabler was ‘Steak Snabler’ — as well as withering wit. Writer Angus Lind recalled Diliberto once feigned agreement with a caller who said the Saints were three players away from the Super Bowl. ‘Dat’s right,’ Diliberto said. ‘Three players. Da Fawtha, da Son and da Holy Ghost.’ Diliberto died months before the hurricane.”

One of my favorite writers has become Wright Thompson, the Clarksdale, Miss., native who now lives in Oxford, Miss., and writes for Go to that site and read the lengthy piece Thompson wrote last week on what the Saints have meant to New Orleans.

“These are strange and beautiful days in New Orleans, and they must be seen to be believed,” he writes. “I’ve visited the city dozens of times since I was a boy, lived and worked there for a spell and last week, when I went down to experience the mania over the Saints’ undefeated season firsthand, I found myself not sure whether every street was a dream. Some moments made me laugh, and others were so full of a desperate love that I had tears in my eyes.”

He later writes: “The Saints, always popular, have transcended, now lumped in with New Orleans’ institutions — Mardi Gras, Louis Armstrong and red beans on Monday. They’re woven into the fabric of the town. . . because they stayed. Private girls schools now let the students wear Saints jerseys to class on special days. A friend of mine, who lives in Uptown and grew up going to games, says the feeling about the team has changed. He’s an oil-and-gas man, a Republican, not prone to fits of hippieness. ‘The last four years have been very special in the city’s attachment to the Saints,’ he told me. ‘I am not one to do a lot of reflecting back on Katrina, but there is clearly a line of demarcation there.”’

Thompson ends his well-crafted story by stating that “the soul of the city is alive. And it is everywhere.”

One loss to the Cowboys will not change that.

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