I tried to get a picture of the skeleton faces and bloody prom dresses as they skated by, bent low, arms swinging, pushing and shoving for position, but the light just didn’t work out. It could have been because I just couldn’t squeeze myself into a decent enough viewing spot to get a good picture, or perhaps I am simply not tech-savvy enough. Either way, I have no Rollergirl pictures from the special Halloween bout for you – my apologies.
Months ago, Gav and I discussed picking up tickets to a couple of Saints games, namely the Washington and San Francisco games. Pre-season hadn’t even started yet. At the time, I even imagined that perhaps the Saints would do well enough to desperately need a win against my utterly dominant hometown team. All I can say about that now is, our predictions are all 100% accurate until the season actually begins. But we waited too long and can’t get tickets now.
So what do these two things have in common, besides physical contact, high speeds, risk of injury, and arcane rules puzzling to the novice spectator? The similarities between roller derby and football are remarkable - as Concerning Pudding’s Brooke drunkenly enthused, “It’s the football I always wanted to play!” Though she now denies it vehemently, we here at F&L know the truth. That aside, what I’m really driving at is the fact that both sporting events sold out, and that’s pretty remarkable.
I don’t think I’m the only one in town who has noticed that everything around town from the big events – Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Saints games, etc. – to the little ones – Morning 40 at Les Bon Temps, my classes, etc. - have been just as crowded as ever. It is, at least, a definitive fact that the Saints have NEVER sold out a season before. Hell, part of the reason everyone around here hit the bars on Sundays is because it seems like half the time the Saints were blacked out. For those of you who grew up in places like northern Virginia, “blacked out” refers to when an NFL team doesn’t sell out a home game, and then the local broadcast network doesn’t show it on tv. You can, though, catch it on satellite in a well-equipped bar. I know, for folks in the D.C. area this is a foreign concept, but really, even a couple of years ago that still happened around here.
Now, while I can’t prove that all events are just as, if not even more, crowded than they were in prediluvian (I just coined that neologism) times, that will not stop me from hypothesizing on possible explanations.
Certainly there’s something to the idea that, as Spike Lee succinctly put on that Monday night when the Saints first returned to the Dome, “This is all they got. It’s three hours of this and then back to the FEMA trailer.” No doubt, we New Orleanians will take our fun when and where we can get it, no questions asked. As for those who thought we shouldn’t celebrate the Saints coming back to town when so many of us are still homeless and displaced, unless you’re one of us (and I didn’t hear of any New Orleanian complaining) you can go to hell.
It could be that those of us here feel an obligation to drive as much of the economy of the city as possible, to make up for those that aren’t here. That’s a lot of drinking, eating, and partying on everyone’s shoulders, but if there’s any people up to the challenge, it’d be us. Also, there’s nothing like total destruction to light a fire under your butt about doing things. That “Oh, I’ll catch Voodoo Fest next year,” excuse rings a little hollow when nobody around here yet trusts that there will be a next year, at least not as far as our little city is concerned.
But while it’s true that New Orleanians love a good time, there’s more to it than that. Some have suggested that there’s nothing like winning to bring out a crowd, and that’s definitely true, but it’s not just the Saints that New Orleanians are jumping up, getting out and spending money for. Plus, the Saints were breaking ticket sales records before a game had been played.
There’s an old Saints p.r. slogan you still see around town on bumper stickers and the like, back from the days when it seemed the Saints could always find a way to lose: “You gotta have faith.”
You want to know why I think the Saints and the Rollergirls sell out? Why, even though there’s only a quarter (okay, maybe a third) of us that there used to be, we’re still getting what’s left of our city to chug along as best we can? Because we do have faith. We might not have homes to live in or the jobs we had a year ago; we might not have working street lights or decent roads or reliable water service; we might be missing the friends and relatives that used to make up the community of people we saw every day, but we have faith, faith in this city and faith in each other.
(And trust me, it’s not faith in government, be it local, state, or federal. If anything, New Orleanians have even less faith in those peculiar institutions than the rest of the country. Not that I can imagine why.)
No, it’s the city itself we believe in, our dear, odd, eccentric mystery of a city. We believe it will pull itself up, brush itself off, and dance again. Can I explain why I’m sure this will happen, why I know New Orleans will one day be its old charming self again? Nope. Can I point to anything that convinces me that this will happen, despite all the misery I see every day? Not really.
Sure, there are plenty of little things; signs of slow recovery are everywhere, from the pothole around the corner that finally got filled in, to the walls in my house, to the Saints winning in the Dome, but what convinces me that any of it will last, that all the horror won’t just happen again? Nothing, actually, but then that’s the very nature of faith, isn’t it? You don’t know; but you do believe.