Yesterday people massed outside a structure that was a backdrop for horrific images in the days after Katrina. I’m not exaggerating when I say that yesterday was one of the most beautiful days in New Orleans ever. All day long the air was cool and crisp and the sky was perfectly blue. Then, as the sun inched toward the horizon, people came back to the Superdome. They came like churchgoers: festive, and eager to experience spiritual healing.
A man of modest means arrived in a stretch limo. As he emerged he remarked to the people in the crowd "a year ago I Ieft here in a crowded bus, but now I’m back in a nice limo." Right before the Dome was officially re-opened a brass band played. Not just any brass band, but the well-known Rebirth Brass Band. Standing in the crowd outside you could feel the magic and the madness blending in a powerful rhythm. Redemption was making its way through the crowd, into the place where its powers had been summoned.
A year ago, football seemed like such a trivial pastime. But what is trivial and what is monumental sometimes get transposed. People here are well aware that Katrina turned a lot of things upside down. A year ago the Superdome was a cauldron of misery. But, last night there was magic inside, magic which snuck in concealed in the hopes of ordinary people. Everyday people whose lives have been profoundly changed. People whose willpower has been tested in ways that would rival stories in the Old Testament.
At some point, even in Old Testament stories, the test ends and the faithful are given their just reward. We are quite aware that hand-wringing politicians cannot give us our reward. Strangely, a football game can. And so it was that, last night in nationally broadcast Saints game, the people of New Orleans were rewarded. I think we can all agree that the reward was well deserved. And quite long-overdue.