From the Pulpit: New Orleans football symbolizes rebirth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My article for the Open Door (First Presbyterian Church of Alabaster&8217;s newsletter) is usually written before Tuesday morning. But last week I purposely waited to write it because I wanted to reflect on Monday Night Football.

I know that seems odd. I mean it&8217;s football. And, regardless of how sacred we may make football here in our beloved south, football is not a religion and the coaches are not gods.

It&8217;s a game.

Whether its Pop Warner, Junior high, high school, college, or pro it&8217;s still just a game. Sometimes we may try to elevate the status&8212;like the T-shirts that read &8220;Life is football, the rest is just details.&8221;

But, ultimately, no matter how important we may try to make football to our personal or communal lives, football is still just a game. That&8217;s the rule. Football is a game.

Every rule, however, has an exception. Last night was the exception.

The game of football returned to the city of New Orleans. The Superdome reopened. The New Orleans Saints were back home. The fans were back.

Finally, in the wake of Katrina, there was cause for jubilant celebration and revelry. New Orleans partied. Much of our nation, perhaps even a few spots in the world, applauded.

Until last night, the lasting image of the Superdome was the picture of interrupted life and, for some, death.

There was a gaping hole in the roof. The wind and the rain blew and beat down on those huddled inside. The field was covered with bunks and blankets, litter and refuse, good people and people without good in their heart.

We watched from a distance&8212;amazed, aghast and frightened by what we saw. Almost fourteen months we watched as our brothers and sister stood in lines, slept without security, and lived in fear. If you watched last night, you were witness to a resurrection.

And, I use that term purposely. Life and hope now grow where death and despair had once hovered. There is a rebirth at some level of infancy in the city.

Now, none are naive enough to believe that since football has returned the city is back to normal. That&8217;s not the case.

Homes still lying rotting. People are still evacuated. Jobs are gone. Schools are gone.

There is not much left to do. I&8217;ll admit, at first I was bothered by how the city officials and the NFL pushed to rebuild the superdome first.

I thought it was callous. Unpersonal. I believe the drive to get the Saints back in town was all out of whack priority wise.

I thought to myself, &8220;They should be building homes, cleaning up schools, getting rid of the garbage left in the streets, anything but thinking about football and the Superdome&8221;

Was I ever wrong! Last night was exactly what the city needed. A symbol. A piece of history returned. A place of celebration where political agendas and personal likes/ dislikes are set aside.

The continued healing in New Orleans will flourish the more the people of New Orleans have opportunity to celebrate what they hold in common.

The houses will come. The people will return. But, first, there has to be a place. A symbol. Of repair. Of hope. Some common ground.

Football is just a game. The superdome is just a building. Those are the rules. But, there are exceptions to every rule. I love those moments when the exceptions come clear. And people unite.

Mark Davenport is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Alabaster (Cumberland)