Earlier this week, I wondered aloud why WaPo columnist Michael Wilbon wasn’t covering the Redskins-Giants game. This morning I got my answer, in the form of a Wilbon dispatch regarding the Monday night game between the Saints and the Titans.
In this column, Wilbon dispenses with his usual brilliance on the Xs and Os and instead tells an emotional tale about sport. And this emotional tale is not a new one. It’s all about the role of the New Orleans Saints in the recovery of their home city after Hurricane Katrina. Wilbon writes:
Since the devastation wrought by Katrina and its aftermath two years ago, the people of New Orleans haven’t had much to feel good about, but last year they did have their Saints.
And right now, that’s been taken from them, too.
I don’t know what it is about sportswriters, perhaps they’re just saps with nothing worthwhile to investigate. But whatever the problem is, they just can’t pass up stories about battered communities and their sports heroes. I am guessing that a Google search that reads “Saints healing Katrina Bush” would fetch millions upon millions of hits.
It’s much harder to find the backlash against all this sentimentalizing, but it’s out there. In the vanguard is the best blogger who ever lived, Daniel Steinberg of the Post. Before a critical Virginia Tech game this year, Steinberg asked why so many people were tying their emotional rehabs to the fortunes of the Hokies gridiron squad. In this blog posting, Steinberg penned a line that all football fans would do well to ponder. It is perhaps the best line of blogging ever written, and certainly the best sports-related line that has ever existed. If not, then definitely the best football-related flourish in the history of blogging, or type. Failing that, it’s the best line ever written in anticipation of a Va. Tech football game. Well, here it is, with a bit of ramp-up:
Why do we have to wring some sort of grandiose tales of societal healing out of sporting events? In what way does football provide comfort to the people who actually need to be comforted; say, the victims’ parents? If any of my relations were ever struck by tragedy, how exactly would a four-yard run up the middle on second-and-eight make me feel better? [Emphasis added.]
There you have it. I have no doubt that the Saints have had a unifying effect on New Orleans and that so have footballers at Va. Tech. But as Steinberg asks in his legendary blog post, are you going to feel more healed if they win, less healed if they lose?
I grew up a fan of the New York Giants and remain one today. I’m not sure whether I would ever have looked to them to provide healing, but I certainly wouldn’t at this stage. The Internet has done too much to undo any romantic notions I may ever have held about my team consisting of a bunch of good guys. For instance, after watching this particular video, how am I going to root for Michael Strahan, a Giants mainstay for more than a decade?
Though often as boring, as Steinberg suggests, football games can be fun to watch. If your team loses and affects your mood, find a hobby. Reach out to someone.