A Tale of a Roux and a Rue

February 8, 2010
By | 4 Comments

The CBS sports commentator who concluded, “Tonight the City of New Orleans embraced football,” doesn’t know the first thing about television reception.  On Superbowl Sunday 2010, viewers saw how a football team has embraced a city and its culture for decades.  Let me give some context.

First, this is how we watched the game.  Gold lamé and tutus, and the women dressed up too.  At the cincher play, an interception returned for a 74-yard touchdown, Deutsches Haus turned off the TV audio and played “When the Saints Come Marchin’ In” for a carnival parade of kings and queens, nuns and burlesque fairies waving white handkerchiefs high.  Mardi Gras, for the uninitiated, is a season here, not a day.  We’d been dressed out since morning for the four Sunday parades, including the all-dog Krewe of Barkus, strolling aptly to “When the Dogs Go Barking In.”

Television didn’t unify us.  The city has been on a high since the election results rolled in 15-hours earlier.  For the first time in recent memory, voters crossed racial lines en masse to elect a white mayor and a multiracial city council.  Television coverage of the city since Katrina has stressed divisions, ignoring the hybrid spaces and collaborative times that form a historically public culture.

Then, we danced downtown.  We took the “neutral ground,” a local word for the median that dates to colonial days as the place where French and Spaniards could meet without a turf scuffle.  In the street-turned-parking-lot, a black woman of maybe 60 years jumped out of her sedan and met in a jubilant squeeze with my towering white guy friend.  It was the first of many hugs, kisses, and high-fives with complete strangers that night.

Over the past four decades, the Saints became part of a public culture that erupts in New Orleans, a gumbo roux (locals, please pardon the cliché) that spills into the rue citywide.

This was the New Orleans I have always known, the one that drew me here before Katrina and the one that has kept me here.


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4 Responses to “ A Tale of a Roux and a Rue ”

  1. Jason on February 8, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Interesting first-hand insights. Thanks. I’ve been interested in this question of the Katrina narrative–how this Saints’ run had been appropriated as a narrative of civic healing, which I find problematic since it feeds a kind of feel-good political ignorance amidst the larger US population, and risks conflating symbolic with real material and political concerns locally. There’s no question that this narrative has also been appropriated and repeated by Saints fans’ at times, even though the roots, as you note, run deeper.
    I’m curious what you see as the Katrina narrative beyond the bliss of victory–in both the larger media landscape and in dialogue with local political issues. That’s to me the interesting question.

  2. Myles McNutt on February 8, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    I saw a few minutes of Diane Sawyer this evening, and they hunted down some of the people who featured heavily in their media coverage of Katrina in order to see where they were when the Saints won the Super Bowl. My immediate thought when I saw the piece was not the people who agreed to do the piece, but rather those who did not: all that were interviewed were wearing Saints clothing, or speaking effusively about how great it was for the city, but I wonder if there were some people they contacted who potentially didn’t care, or even had a more cynical take on the role the Saints are playing.

    I missed the end of the piece, but I have to wonder if these people would have been included, should they have been found.

  3. V Mayer on February 8, 2010 at 10:50 PM

    So I spent most of the day talking with ten of my neighbors (white and black), many of whom I didn’t know except we shared coffee together this morning at the same communal table. A couple more interesting insights:
    – most were not longtime football fans but, like me, got into the Saints, narrative and all, over the course of the season;
    – as I said, the narrative here was not isolated but in the context of the most important election here arguably since Katrina;
    – half of us were still wearing black and gold and will do so for the next 10 days;
    – even the one without a TV listened on the radio;
    – everyone is sick and tired of the racial narrative that seems to have been the first one, the remaining one, and the one that some ‘new dats’ seem to think was overcome with a game.
    Over the course of the conversation, we talked about the Saints’ miracle, along with the costs of trash collection, the lack of recycling, and the corner grocery store that wouldn’t sell more than one newspaper per person because “these are for the neighborhood.” They all have to be looked at together.

  4. Kristina on February 10, 2010 at 5:50 AM

    Thanks Vicki – keep us informed on the “mood” in the city.