Part way through the night, in between a chest bump or a metallic cheers, I figured out why I was rooting for the Saints. I wasn’t an economic fan, one who out of a sense of political correctness was rooting for Louisiana as a city, and I wasn’t rooting against the Colts like a handful of reverse-rooters* seemed to be. I wanted the Saints to win because of their fans, their people.
Every Saints fan I met in Miami, and trust me their were plenty (I’d say 20:1 compared to the Colts), whether it was in a bar or down on Ocean Ave or at the Bud Light Hotel’s obviously fun Super Bowl Party was nice. They weren’t “not-mean” nice, where the absence of one defaults to the other, they were forcefully cheery, an almost aggressive brand of positive that spreads faster than ants in a candy factory.
I’m talking about more than just their grammatically incorrect chants, their freewheeling southern attitudes and the glimmer of their beads, I’m talking about genuine likability. The kind you can’t fake or turn on or really figure out, the kind your parents know you were born with because of the expression on the Doctor’s face when they brought you into the world and the kind that, like gummy bears, gets better with age.
And that’s the funny thing, the same thing that made me love the Saints, made me root for them as hard as I’ve ever rooted, made me ready to bring an end to one of the funnest weeks of my life and come on home. The people. And that’s the trick of it, isn’t it? That no place is ever it, no party, no job, no one thing. It’s all the people. Because without friends to share them with, all the experiences in the world don’t add up to much more than a pile of words, a box of photographs and a distant feeling that comes back for an instant with a smell, a stranger’s face or just the right angle of sun coming down from the sky.
*I will never understand people who root against other teams instead of for a team. I’m not talking about enjoying it any time that one team you dislike loses. I’m talking about fans who only root against things. I’m pretty sure these are the same people who send back food in restaurants and cheat at Monopoly.