Wright Thompson’s ESPN.com piece about the Saints and New Orleans is a classic and a must-read:
…These are strange and beautiful days, and there is something being created right now, something that goes well beyond the success of a football team. One night, three of us roll through the streets of downtown New Orleans. LeBlanc is driving her dark Mercedes. In the back seat is the head of the federal government’s Gulf Coast Rebuilding team. They are talking about the Saints’ perfect season and the things athletic success can realistically mean to a town. We pass reopened hotels and fixed houses, the blue tarps that doubled for roofs for the past four years gone. We pass throngs of tourists who have returned, and local restaurants that are packed, and out there in the night, implicit in everything that is of this place, there is a defiant beating heart.
Yes, there is something happening in New Orleans, a strange and beautiful story not so much about a town that still needs distraction from a hurricane but about a professional sports team changing the nature of the relationship between franchise and fan. “It’s the entire city,” LeBlanc says as we drive. “Everybody feels it. It’s not because we’re selling it. Faith or fate, whatever you believe in, you cannot watch this football team and not have faith.”
Read the whole thing.