Saints fans are still understandably fuming about how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handled the whole "bounty" investigation into the team's pay-for-performance program. Fans and players alike maintain that Goodell never provided any evidence that there was any intent to injure other players. I still get angry calls and texts about it almost every day on the "Think Tank" by fuming Black & Gold fans.
It was cold comfort late in the season when former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the suspensions of four current and former Black & Gold players. Though none of the players actually served any suspension time during their appeals, the whole saga was yet another off-field distraction for a team without their coach.
Now, Goodell is coming to New Orleans, as the biggest sports and media spectacle in the world gets ready to crank up. And many fans say they are far from "over it." On WWL's Facebook page and across other social media sites, many fans gleefully boast about what they would do if they had the chance to run into Goodell next week.
Really? I mean, REALLY?
We've seen what happens when fans in other cities are, to quote Hokie, "turds." Saints fans have told us of ugly treatment received on the road in some cities. And the enduring memory of the 2007 NFC Championship game is a Bears fan holding a sign reading, "Bears finishing what Katrina started."
Har-har. Very funny. 1,800 people died, and this clown stood grinning outside Soldier Field. The memories of those days and months still cause nightmares for many.
Look, it's impossible to transfer or transplant Southern Hospitality to other parts of the country. It's just not in their genes. Visitors from other parts of the country often give you a double-take when you say "Yes Sir" or "Yes Ma'm." For us, it's just part of how we were raised and how we live our lives. Tourists come to our region for our warm and open engagement, something many of them are sorely lacking in their hometowns.
There are practical, pragmatic reasons to not say something stupid or embarrassing to Roger Goodell. While he is in New Orleans, he will be tailed and trailed by a mob of media, waiting for *something* to happen with the locals. And any negative image (or videos) of locals dissing Goodell will wind up on the evening news, and will also likely go viral across the internet and social media.
We talked to Michael Bayham, the Saints fan who took the infamous picture in Chicago. And even he agrees it's time to move on.
"This game is far too important to this city and region," Bayham said. "I understand the frustration of fans, but I think Who Dats need to also remember the spotlight we're in this week."
The Super Bowl is an extremely rare opportunity to showcase a city's vitality in any year. This is the first one we've had since before Katrina, and it will be an unprecedented opportunity to let the world know just how far our city and region have recovered from one of the worst natural (and man-made) disasters in history.
So, those are the practical reasons not to act an ass around Goodell. But the basic, bottom line reason: If you do something stupid around Goodell, you will come across looking like that Bears fan in 2007, now and for years to come.
Tone down the rhetoric. Just like the Saints are more than just a football team to our area, this Super Bowl is more than just a football game. It would suck if one or two "fans" doing something stupid become the face of a city that has come so far in a few short years.
Photo by Michael Bayham