The Philadelphia Eagles-New Orleans Saints game began tonight with the most brutal hit I can ever recall seeing. Reggie Bush was in the flat and totally exposed, arms up over his head to bring down a high pass from Drew Brees in one of the first plays from scrimmage.
A Philadelphia defensive back hit Bush when the runningback had both feet completely off the ground, slamming a meaty shoulder into the runningback's gut, as a routine screen play became an on-field mugging; the defensman rode Bush to the ground, where he landed, shoulder-to-stomach, with a palpable thud.
Now. You need to rewind a few months ago to a game the Saints played in which Reggie Bush did his signature hurdling move over the head of his defender, cartwheeling into the end zone and leaping immediately back to his feet to spike the ball and pose for the cameras.
"You know," my father reflected, "One of these days now that he's in the big leagues, they're going to figure out he likes to go up in the air like that, and one guy's gonna go up top and another guy's gonna go down low and they're gonna clean his freakin' clock for him."
So the only thing off about my father's prophecy was that only one Eagles defender was involved in this assault, not two. Reggie did undoubtedly get his clock cleaned.
But he tried to "man up" immediately afterward, springing back up again at first, but then as if on delay the hit seemed to aftershock on him and he crumpled to the ground. The cameraman zoomed in and then quickly cut away to a crowd shot just after the first vomit began to tumble out of Bush's mouth.
A savage hit. Beyond brutal.
But now cut forward--it's nearing midnight on the East Coast as the Saints make the final first down while time winds down on the clock. The stadium, whose noise all night suggests there will be tens of thousands of people with no voices left tomorrow in the New Orleans area, cranks itself up again one notch louder, as the camera shows Deuce McAllister staring off into space, on the sideline in the black-and-gold uniform now. McAllister has tears standing in his eyes.
Around him in the Superdome--hell on Earth just over a year ago--a bowed and beaten city rejoices, the vindicated Bush included. It's a story that reminds me in magnitude of the Red Sox World Series three years ago, the sense of deep meaning for an entire region. It has a different feeling, though, not so much the reward for a lifetime of penitence but instead an outpouring of grief and healing like New Orleans funerals have always been, jazzy affairs with oompah-ing brass bands dancing down the street. Where there was unspeakable horror after the devastation of Katrina, in the very same seats where people suffered after the storm, tonight fans are reclaiming some joy without stopping to question it.
You couldn't write this into a screenplay nowadays. People would call bullshit immediately.
I'll tell you, if I didn't have a team already, I would be a Saints fan this season. And maybe, even still, a part of me is.
P.S. Peyton Manning's smug and infuriating mug appeared on the cameras victorious once again today after the Colts trounced the Ravens. I dare not speak what I'm beginning to think might be coming...