Joy in Mudville

New Orleans is beside itself with joy this morning. People are walking around with a grin on their faces and a quickness to their step.

The New Orleans Saints are going to the Super Bowl.

The (Jackson, MS) Clarion-Ledger cartoonist Marshall Ramsey says on his Facebook page that the King Edward Hotel is reopening there after 40 years, Massachusetts has elected a Republican to fill the Kennedy seat in the U.S. Senate, and the New Orleans Saints are in the Super Bowl. Can the Apocalypse be far behind?

Last night as soon as the Saints kicker knocked the ball 40 yards downfield through the uprights, a cheer ascended heavenward from this part of the world as one voice. I walked out the front door of my house just to see if anyone else was coming outside. After all, we need to share our joy and express it with those of like minds.

Up and down the block they were flowing into the street, some yelling that odd Saints cry of “Who Dat!” You could hear fireworks popping from every direction.

After 43 years, our team has won the NFC Championship and earned a spot in the Super Bowl to be played in Miami on February 7. How sweet it is.

I hope the joy lasts a long time. But I’m also a realist.

Such joy is sweet but two weeks from now, when our team goes up against the AFC champions, the fearsome Indianapolis Colts, led by local hero Peyton Manning, it could be another story.

We members of the Who-Dat Nation have always had hopes–that’s why fans keep queueing up for those expensive tickets year after year–but not to the point that anyone made travel plans for Miami before the season began. The reality of the situation is that even when you have a great team, it takes a lot of luck to get to the big game.

Make no mistake about that: this year’s version of the New Orleans Saints is a great team. Not perfect, not by a long shot. But neither is this “your mama’s team,” as fans like to say. These are not the hapless bumblers of yesteryear. This is the team of Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Gregg Williams, and champions like Robert Meacham, Reggie Bush, Marcus Colston, and plenty of others.

People who know say this collection of players is the nicest bunch you have ever seen. They truly like one another and they love this city.

I get a lot of pleasure hearing sports guys on ESPN (and other places) say they’ve never seen a city and a team match up and bond like the Saints and the city of New Orleans.

By New Orleans, let’s emphasize we do not mean the geographical lines enclosing only about 350,000 residents inside Orleans Parish. We mean everyone in this part of the world.

One thing I enjoy doing on a Monday after the Saints play is to go to the opposing team’s city newspaper and read what people are saying about their team and ours. This morning, I visited and read the reporters’ take on the NFC championship game in our city last night, then the comments from their fans.

The comments are always interesting. After reading a dozen, you have a feel for how all the others are going.

My observation is the 90 percent of the Vikings fans felt their team won the game but that the referees had robbed them. The other 10 percent blamed their own coaches. As one pointed out, “We got a penalty for having 12 men in a huddle; how is that the fault of the refs?”

It’s always something.

When we lose, we can always go back to a play here or a mistake here or a bad call there that could have turned things around.

The ESPN guys were saying this game was actually lost by the Vikings several weeks ago when they played the Jets (I think) and at the last of the game, the Jets QB threw a touchdown pass that won the game for them. Had the Vikings won, said the speaker, they would have had homefield advantage for last night’s game. “Had this game been played in Minneapolis, the Vikings would have won by 4 touchdowns.”

Maybe so, maybe not. Who’s to say.

You can play this game of “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” all day. As the trite saying puts it, “It is what it is.” It’s over; deal with it.

I recall that after the NCAA championship game, many Texans liked to point out that had Colt McCoy stayed in the game, Bama would not have won. But who can know this?

After recriminations and frustrations and venting, many of the Viking fans seem to have recovered enough to say, “Well, I wish the Saints well. No city in America needs this more.”

I appreciate that, and frankly am not sure I could be as gracious. In fact, last night when it appeared the Vikings were going to kick a winning field goal just before regulation ended, I was thinking, “If we lose, I don’t care what happens in the Super Bowl between this team and the Colts. Losing this will hurt too bad.”

That’s why the joy of winning was so overwhelming: we came so close to losing.

Jesus said, “…my joy may remain in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

I’m enough the realist to know that the joy of winning this NFC championship and going to the Super Bowl will not last. This kind of joy never does, no matter how wonderful it is and how thoroughly we are enjoying it.

Time has a way of taking the luster off championships.

Case in point: do the Buffalo Bills’ fans still enjoy memories of the four games their team played in the Super Bowl? No. Even though they lost all four, they had the elation of winning their conference championship and going to the bowl. However, that was so many years back and the teams they field these days consistently fail to win championships. Today, there is little joy in Buffalo over their team.

And that’s true in places like Oakland and San Francisco and Denver. The great teams of the past are just that: in the past.

Likewise, here in New Orleans, there will be new seasons and new contests played by new teams led by new coaches, cheered on by new fans. The memory of this season will dim and will eventually become a historical footnote.

Every couple of years around here, the TV networks trot out the old grainy black-and-white films of Billy Cannon scoring a TD for LSU against Ole Miss back in 1959, which to the younger folks might as well be the Middle Ages. Since Dr. Cannon is still around, they interview him and try to remind everyone else why this win mattered.

But it doesn’t work. Yesterday’s victories do not elate the way last night’s win does. Each generation has to face its own opponents and master its own challenges.

The raise your company gave you last year was welcome and deeply appreciated, but the joy has evaporated. The new car that gave your family such a thrill three years ago now has 100,000 miles on it and needs an overhaul. The computer you bought two years ago is now outdated, as are most of the high-tech doodads you carry around on your person.

Joy is ephemeral. Elation doesn’t last. Pleasures are for a season.

Only the joy of the Lord remains.

And the only reason His joy continues to thrill us and lift the spirits and drive us onward is that it keeps getting renewed day by day from constant fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

For those who grow lax in their faithfulness, the joy of the Lord is the first thing out the door.

Psalm 16:11 is a wonderful reality and a great promise to believers: “In thy presence, there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand, there are pleasures forevermore.”

How’s your joy today? It’s good to enjoy your team’s victory, but you’ll not want to depend too heavily on that sustaining you very long. It won’t.

You will remember the old poem of Casey at the Bat. Sooner or later, we all live in Mudville.

3 thoughts on “Joy in Mudville

  1. Let me add to yr list Porter, Vilna, and all the rest of the defense. One reason Saints offense didn’t run up the figures was the defense gave them the ball closer to the goal. Ave Vikings scoring drive was 70 + yds (xcept Bush’s fumble). Ave Saints’ drive was 44! And the offensive line let Drew wander around all day in the backfield.

    That formula will work again in 2 wks – betcha!

  2. There’s a difference between happiness and joy,

    Happinress is baed on happenings [circumstances]. The Joy of the Lord can be ours in spite of circumstances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.