NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans' love-hate relationship with the NFL is stuck on hate right now, judging from court records and the countless number of black-bespectacled, stripe-shirted, white-cane-tappers — some in multicolored clown wigs — who celebrated Mardi Gras last week by mocking referees.
It's been eight weeks since officials at the NFC championship game held onto their yellow flags after a Los Angeles Rams defensive back leveled a Saints receiver with the ball on the way. The Rams back wasn't penalized — not for the pass interference, nor for the helmet-to-helmet hit. A flag at that point almost certainly would have resulted in the Saints advancing, for only the second time in team history, to the Super Bowl.
"Football is our passion down here. And we don't get over it," Hammond resident Jerry Dellucky said as he and friends made fun of the refs on Fat Tuesday in the French Quarter.
Litigation is a passion down here, too. And soon after the game was over, lawsuits were filed. One sought enforcement of an NFL rule that, the suit said, could result in a do-over of the game, either in its entirety or from the moment of the un-flagged infraction.
That, obviously, didn't happen. The lawsuit and another suit seeking damages for ticketholders' "mental pain and suffering," ''loss of enjoyment of life," and "severe and debilitating depression" were dismissed earlier this month, although they may be amended and re-filed.
Another pending federal court lawsuit says each person who bought a ticket to the game — roughly 73,000 people — should be reimbursed for the cost of the ticket, parking, concessions and, if they travelled to the city, transportation, hotel and meals. It claims NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, three game officials, and the league's senior vice president of officiating, "agreed, either pregame or thereafter, to ignore obvious fouls in violation of the game's rules and eviscerate all integrity" of the game.
Now, the NFL has its problems — recent examples include a team owner's prostitution scandal and allegations that Colin Kaepernick was blacklisted for protesting police brutality — but a high-level conspiracy to influence a game by ignoring a helmet-to-helmet hit is unlikely to be one of them after years of bad publicity over concussions.
Also unlikely: Saints fans giving up on the NFL.
Yes, this is the city where referees and Goodell are being mocked as clowns following the no-call blunder. And it's where Goodell was portrayed in, let's say, a less than dignified manner on floats in a particularly raunchy Mardi Gras parade after suspending the coach Sean Payton a few years back.
But it's also where many residents feared they would be abandoned by the team and the league following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The franchise stayed. The Superdome — a scene of wretched, sweltering misery for thousands who took refuge there after the storm — was repaired. Tears flowed when it reopened in September 2006, and not just because the Saints, bouncing back from their miserable storm-tossed 2005 season, were suddenly winners with their new coach, Payton, and quarterback Drew Brees.
The dome and the team had become a needed symbol of rebirth and hope. And the NFL — a big business sometimes derided for avariciousness and social ham-handedness — had come through for New Orleans. At least back then.
Now? Football is just a game again. Victories are sweet, but not as sweet as they were that night in 2006, when the words "mental pain and suffering," ''loss of enjoyment of life," and "severe and debilitating depression" had more weight.
Perhaps a judge will decide the Saints were "robbed" eight weeks ago and that ticketholders are due recompense. Meanwhile, clown wigs are the best revenge.
EDITORS NOTE: Kevin McGill is an Associated Press reporter in New Orleans.
Posted on Fri, March 8, 2019
by By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press