They're trying to whitewash those days
So maybe I late morning burst of soul-searching forfeited my football cred once and for all. But FreeDarko exists to communicate certain inalienable truths, and the pre-game to tonight's MNF showdown had me screaming in the cellpiece before the gloss had even settled.
In case you didn't hear, last September the Superdome was transformed into a water-logged cavern of refugee hell. Falcons/Saints was the first sporting event held in this arena since it became synonymous with suffering and injustice; it was billed as a evening of rejuvanation for the city brought back from the brink of doom, the redemption of a nightmare locale. Anyone with half a brain knows that race was the sprawling subtext of all events surrounding Katrina, and one would think that this occasion would too be colored by, well, color.
Cast as a Vick/Bush exchange, this had the potential to surpass even 3/28/06 in the FreeDarko Annals of Excellence. More importantly, of course, I'd assumed this would be a chance for the American mainstream to 'fess up about the diaster's real shape and form. I'd anticipated something that, if not downright lugubrious, would at least verge on cathartic. Cathartic, presumably, for those who had been most affected by the high water.
I don't know why I was so shocked to switch on the 'ol moron machine a bit before kickoff only to find . . . Green Day and U2 fused together as one, performing their most sappy power ballads along with what sounded like an Animals cover. The crowd shots were, well, a bunch of white people looking like they were having the time of their life. After a few minutes, it seems that ESPN resorted to eavesdropping on my brain, since they started zooming in tight on the same four or five African-Americans. Apparently I had missed the Goo Goo Dolls. I immediately dialed Silverbird and started foaming at the mouth, only to be slightly appeased by the appearance of Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint to perform the anthem. The architect of the New Orleans r&b sound got to twinkle a little on a big Casio, and Irma did her best to ruffle no one's interpretational feathers.
It was then that it dawned on me: not only was the mood more festive than moving, they'd also totally neglected the whole "rechristen the Superdome" angle. This was "football returning to New Orleans," minus any of the messy, wrenching stuff that would've come up had ESPN cut to the quick. Tirico off-handedly observed that "not many of the people who were actually in the Superdome are here tonight," but they had to be content with a seat in our collective heart. Silverbird pointed out that there's a gargantuan difference between him going to Auschwitz and survivors hitting it up; still, couldn't they have trotted some notable citizens who passed through the Dome? Put some kids on the front row? Say something about neighborhoods?
Unfortunatey, none of this was to be; while typing this, I learned that the halftime show will be an encore of the Green Day/U2 horah. It seems like the Saints team is doing the right thing. I thought for a second Joe Horn, who cried on Sportscenter about the situation, had the FEMA markings drawn on his face. And hell, any way this went off was bound to come off as paltry next to Spike's necessary chronicle.
Still, I can't help but suspect that if the NBA had to do this, it wouldn't have been quite as insensitive, rote, thoughtless, and blind to the reason for this night's importance. Maybe it would've done a little to remind people what went wrong, instead of simply going along with a status quo that caused the calamity in the first place.