I'm all over the map heading into this Super Bowl matchup between the Saints and Colts. I find that my loyalties and my predictions on how the game is going to go down change hour by hour. Here's just a few thoughts that have been swirling around in my head, on the '09 Saints versus the '99 Rams, Reggie's folly, Jim Irsay as Emperor Palpatine, and where the smart money is going in tonight's game.
The Saints are the New Rams... almost There are certainly eerie parallels between the 2009 Saints and 1999 Rams -- most notably in an offense that has suddenly taken off, led by a cast-off quarterback who is nearly a messiah among the team's fans. They are poised to deliver a championship to a city that knows nothing of football success. And they are doing it with a team that has, collectively, almost no experience in the playoffs, let alone in the Super Bowl itself.
There are lots of reasons to feel kinship with the Saints. After all, New Orleans is St. Louis' kindred sister on the mighty River Mississip. Her culture, food, music, and taste in french colonial brick architecture steamed up the river and formed a crucial part of the backbone of this city.
But the deep mystical hoodoo of the swamp stayed put. New Orleans is uniquely superstitious among American cities -- a city fascinated and surrounded by ghosts, moaning blues to keep those ancient spirits soothed. Maybe it's because the dead there live above ground like the rest of us, seemingly ready to open the doors of their tombs and rejoin us if the party is good enough.
In celebration, though, the two cities are quite different. Kurt Warner delivered the signature cry of the Rams' 1999 win -- an earnest, overloud "Thank you Jesus!" that will forever cast St Louis sports in an evangelical, tent-raising light. But perhaps this wasn't out of character. The win was a deliverance for us, a welcoming to the kingdom of football heaven after decades of unrewarded faith. But Kurt refused to take the glory alone for the team's acts, instead passing them on to his deity of choice. In a sense, Kurt with his selflessness and his piousness took some of the fun out of winning for a heathen like me. What's wrong with just partying and enjoying the moment? Why did he have to get all Jesus on us?
If the Saints win, I expect it to be a much more heathen-friendly affair. I expect nothing less than a raucous week-long jazz funeral to lay rest to all the previous seasons of deeply flawed Saints teams. Rather than celebrate the win as a deliverance, the Saints should celebrate the passing of a culture of failure, loudly and joyously laying to rest those ghosts of the past.
Reggie Bush is a douche, and is reason enough by himself to root against the Saints
If you didn't know, Reggie plans to propose to Kim Kardashian -- if the Saints win. Classy move, Reggie. Of course, anyone who believes there's any kind of love involved between these two notorious self-promoters is just fooling themselves. As my buddy Mike says, expect to see Reggie fumbling the ball at least three times, and committing some costly drive-killing penalties along the way to save himself.
St Louis hosted a sham marriage proposal at the end of the 2004 World Series, when Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon invaded the on-field celebration during their Red Sox-themed remake of "Fever Pitch." The stink from that moment was so bad that they had to tear down that Busch Stadium and build a new one. The spot where they stood is still an empty lot, as cursed by pop culture as any Indian mound.
We really don't need to see that again. Really.
Are the Colts the new evil empire? This is a thought I can't shake. The Patriots, long the most hated team in the NFL, looked almost human trying to match up against Peyton and these Colts. Their offense is so outstanding, even with replacement parts at wide receiver and no running game at all, that they have the ability to completely destroy opponents in every game. And yet, it often seems as though they hold back, almost toying with the other team before putting them out of their misery.
Not so against the Rams, of course. Their 42-6 win was possibly their high point of unstoppability, the closest we've seen the Colts to playing an entire game in high gear. And even then they let up somewhat in the second half. They have frightening power, Death Star power, that like true villains they have kept cloaked for as long as possible.
In this metaphor, Peyton is the dark lord of the Sith, Darth Vader -- although kind of goofy, more like the Robot Chicken version off the field -- and Colts owner Jim Irsay is the mighty Emperor Palpatine. Coach Jim Caldwell? Not really an important figure, just one of those gray-shirted administrators that keeps the lights on.
Like Admiral Akbar and the rebel alliance, the Saints fly into Miami assured that they can find some hidden weakness in the Colts' gameplan, that they can somehow disrupt the Colts' ability to execute, but they know not the true power of the team they are facing up against.
Smart money is on the Colts and the points The Colts are a five-point favorite, a line that seems perhaps smaller than it should be. Vegas oddsmakers don't try to predict the final score, they try to find a perfect balance of the perceived advantage one team has over the other. But the perception of who is actually better is often counterweighted by a public love or hatred for one team or the other. Especially in a major sporting/betting event such as this, that draws a bunch of casual gamblers to the table, the line moves according to popular opinion.
And popular opinion, in this case, is pulling for the Saints. Typically fans without a rooting interest will pull for the underdogs, but New Orleans represents an underdog of such massive proportions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, that it is very hard to not root for the "story" of a Saints win. And the team itself is good enough -- a #1 seed, after all -- to be a respectable choice to pull off the upset.
A massive wave of like-minded fans faces off against a wave of football cognoscenti who see a Colts blowout. The "smart money" is with the Colts, but the "heart money" is with the Saints.
Prediction: Colts by 3 Saints lose a heartbreaker, but cover the spread. The city celebrates anyway, because funerals are parties too in New Orleans. And Kim Kardashian marries Pierre Garcon instead.