It's easy to get jaded with professional sports.
There is too much money and hype, too many games that o seem to run together, an endless cycle of contract disputes and free-agent signings. Too many people are more concerned with commerce than sport. Too many times when you wonder how it got so crazy.
Truth be told, I grew bored with the Super Bowl a long time ago, the annual monument to excess, with its bloated halftime shows and military flyovers. Take away the Patriots trips, and the Super Bowl was something I too often watched with one eye closed.
Then there was Sunday night.
One of those games that reminded us that sports can be transcendent, have the power to be more than just a game with a winner and a loser. One of those games that remind us what we love about sports.
All year I have rooted for the Saints. Maybe that's because of the television images of the horror that was Katrina, the people on the roofs, the boats through the flooded streets, the immense human suffering, the unthinkable realization that this was taking place in an American city. Maybe it was the fact that I've been in the SuperDome several times, had been there amidst cheers and good times, been there when it seemed as if it were one of the wonders of American sport. So to see it turned into a giant refugee center was heartbreaking.
And I know that a football team doesn't eradicate New Orleans' post-Katrina problems. It doesn't reduce poverty or unemployment, doesn't stop corruption, doesn't heal the sick or raise the dead. I know that in the end it's just football, window dressing to a city's real problems.
But a sports team can boost a city's pride. A sports team can make a region feel better about itself, give it a collective spirit, become a symbol of a city's rebirth. That is what the Saints became, the symbol for a city's rebirth, a visible reminder that history can change, that a story can have a different ending.
Can there be a better epitaph for any team?
Then there's Drew Brees.
In a league where the anointed quarterbacks are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the two guys that are playing for immortality as much as titles, Brees long has been under the radar, thanks to a lack of size, national profile and playing for a team that never won anything. All Brees did this year was put up numbers as good as any quarterback in the game.
But it was more than that.
From his first visit to New Orleans he knew that this was more than just football.
The story has been well-told, how when Saints' coach Sean Payton was showing Brees and his wife the city, he took a wrong turn and they found themselves in the Ninth Ward, both the epicenter of the city's destruction and the painful reminder of how long and difficult the city's comeback has been.
To Brees, it was an illuminating moment. For he, too, was in the midst of a comeback. Let go by San Diego after he dislocated his throwing shoulder, he was a quarterback in search of his own resurrection story. He saw it as the perfect fit, a quarterback in search of a comeback in the city that was, too.
"We knew that we had en entire city and maybe an entire country behind us," he said Sunday night in the wake of the Saints' triumph, shortly after being named the game's MVP.
That was the other thing that made Sunday night's game different, the sense that Brees was not just playing for himself and his teammates, but for the city of New Orleans, too. Many athletes pay lip service to this, of course, "we wanted to win it for our fans" the new cliche.
With Brees, it seemed different, words with currency, both through his foundation in New Orleans and his statement that he always is going to live in New Orleans, his statement in an interview with Katie Couric that New Orleans has done more for him than he's done for New Orleans.
And in the end, it's what made Sunday's game transcendent, gave us one more reminder of the power to elevate us.
For isn't that what we love about sports -- the fact it has the potential to take us beyond just the wins and the losses, beyond the hits, runs, and errors? The fact it has the potential to take us places we didn't think we could go?
That's what will endure about this Super Bowl, long after the particulars will be forgotten. We will remember that this was the Super Bowl won by the Saints, won for a city that needed a big win. We will remember that this was won by a team that plays in a building that only five years ago was a refugee center, a place of almost unimaginable human suffering, a building that now rocks again with cheers.
And we will remember it as one of the best football stories we've had in a while.
One more reminder of the transcendent power of sports.