Tragedy, justice, and the Super Bowl

>> Friday, February 5, 2010

You like the Colts because of their single-minded efficiency and high-energy offense. (Or, like me, because Peyton Manning played for your alma mater, and you've been a fan of him ever since.) But then there's the Saints, who represent for NOLA--and gosh knows New Orleans needs something to feel good about. And that Drew Brees, he's a pretty swell guy--and it's even easier to root for him when you think about how San Diego let him go because they wanted that prat Philip Rivers instead.

So what do you do? Colts or Saints? Who do you pull for? I posed the problem to NFL observer Paul "The Sundance Kid" Harrill, who returned this considered response:

"I was feeling a little bit of this myself. Here's what I've decided:

While I can appreciate what it would mean to New Orleans for the Saints to win, as a longtime Colts fan I have an obligation to root for my favorite team to play hard, kick ass, and WIN! Anything less is not playing -- and cheering for -- the game the way it's meant to be played.

Rooting for the Colts in this way, if the Saints win, their victory will have a lot of integrity to it. And this will make me happy, knowing that the Saints played their hearts out and defeated a great effort from the Colts.

But rooting against the Colts just so New Orleans can have their cathartic moment... that goes against the principles of sportsmanship. How can I, after the players for the Colts have brought me so much happiness, turn around and cheer against these men because of the luck of who they drew as an opposing team? What kind of fan would I be?

The agony of defeat is part of sports (and life). And, arguably, the Colts will feel agony in a Super Bowl defeat much deeper than the Saints. Their entire season has been built around competing in the Super Bowl (cf., the controversy of giving up their undefeated season to rest for their playoff run).

On the other hand, watching the scenes of Bourbon St. last night [when they clenched the NFC championship], it was clear that NOLA have already *had* a feeling of catharsis and victory. They've never been to the Super Bowl before. That alone is historic, and a victory for the city. It made me so happy for them. But now I have to say:


I called Paul to laugh about this, and to sympathize, and it led us to an even deeper discussion concerning tragedy and justice. No matter who loses this Super Bowl, it will be a tragedy. Tragedy, as Paul defined it, is not when bad things happen to bad people. That's justice. Tragedy is when bad things happen to good people, and both teams, for many fans, are good people.

Now, there are undoubtedly some Colts haters out there. There have to be. Those fans may have loyalties that lie elsewhere, or just feel that the Colts have had an embarrassment of riches for too long, and need to be brought down a peg. (Although I'll point out that they have only won one Super Bowl in the Peyton Manning era.) But I challenge anyone to argue that the Colts play dirty, or have players who are constantly in trouble with the law the way other teams do. The Colts have been a class act for a long time now, love them or hate them. Which makes them good guys. Just like the Saints.

Tragedy is when bad things happen to good people. Thus, if there is one thing we know we'll see this Super Bowl Sunday, it's tragedy.


Paul Harrill February 5, 2010 at 4:21 PM  

A small, but subtle correction: I thought I said -- or at least meant to say -- Tragedy is when good people make bad things happen to good people.

Go Colts!

Alan Gratz February 5, 2010 at 7:08 PM  

Ah! I'm sure it was my misunderstanding. I think both definitions may stand though!

tanita davis February 6, 2010 at 7:05 AM  

Well, a wee-tiny tragedy, in the scheme of things.

If I thought NOLA would GET anything out of the Saints win -- I mean, financial aid, rebuilt neighborhoods, scrubbed up streets -- then I would care one way or another. But, the only thing that's going to happen in either event is that very well paid large men will get even more money, and big gaudy rings.


Alan Gratz February 6, 2010 at 11:01 AM  

@ Tanita: True enough, true enough. I will say that Drew Brees, in particular, has done a lot (financially) to help rebuild New Orleans, and I'm sure other Saints players have as well, but you're right--I should have pointed out that I was using the term "tragedy" very, very loosely. I saw what was going to play out as more of a study in story development, not real tragedy, but I could have chosen my words--or defined them--more carefully.

tanita davis February 6, 2010 at 1:42 PM  

I don't mean to give you a hard time... my cousin used to play for the Saints, so I tend to roll my eyes about them a great deal!

Doret February 6, 2010 at 7:01 PM  

I didn't twice about who I would root for. Go Colts

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