Tag Archives: football

Our National Half Time

Here in the United States of America — the Land of the Free and the Brave — our national mid-term elections are just 12 weeks away. And don’t fool yourself: the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been. Sometimes, it seems like we’re right on the brink of countrywide crazy.

With the NFL pre-season getting underway, let me put the situation in a context that those who watch more ESPN than MSNBC can appreciate…

The election of President Barack Obama two years ago was not a Super Bowl-winning touchdown spiked in the end zone. Democrats and progressives who suffered for eight years while George Bush ran amok, simply got the football back, first and ten, on our own five-yard line – with 95 yards to go for a score. It was lousy field position to start with, and little room to operate.

When Obama dropped back deep to look for a long yardage play upfield (Health Reform with a public option), he was nearly sacked in the end zone for a safety. So he rolled to his right and threw an outlet pass for 10 yards and a first down to his halfback rolling out of the backfield. We didn’t get the public option most of us wanted, but we got some measure of Health Care Reform. We moved the chains.

The chains continued to move as President Obama kept his opponents off balance with a flurry of short yardage plays like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Credit CARD Act (which reformed the way credit card companies do business), increased funding for veteran’s health care, and the naming of the Steve Goodman Post Office Building in Chicago, Illinois, signed on August 3, 2010.

Oh yeah, and there was that Stimulus Bill, too. The crazy things is that even before we got the football to start our drive, we were already facing third down and unfathomably long yardage after eight years of GOP economic malpractice. Obama did what he had to do to move the chains again – but there were a lot of injuries on that play.

When Obama dropped back to go long on Financial Reform, guys on his own team (like Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska) simply fell down on the play. Obama tossed the ball to Senator Chris Dodd — but Dodd, who’s playing out his contract before retiring, hauled in the pass but never turned on the jets. He settled for another first down — when everyone in the stands was looking for a touchdown. All Elizabeth Warren could do was watch from the sidelines and hope she could get in the game and truly advance the ball as the head of the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Naming Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court were two solid plays that gained ground against relatively little resistance – but a Climate Control bill never made it out of the huddle.

For most of the game, it’s been three yards and a cloud of dust. It hasn’t always been thrilling – certainly not when you compare it to the pre-game show with a sea of flag-waving Obama supporters in Washington and a 70% approval rating after his inauguration. But Obama has kept us in the game, moving us down the field against a doomsday defense unwilling to yield an inch of common ground without holding, tripping, clawing, scratching and biting.

So, if we look at the mid term elections as Half Time in America – it’s clear that, in order to keep moving forward, progressives must stay unified as a team, elect more teammates in the House and Senate that are willing to play hard — and get President Obama as many snaps as he can get between now and 2012. You can’t score many points if you don’t have the ball.

The chalk talk is over. Here’s the bottom line.

On November 2, 2010, the citizens of this stressed and agitated nation will go to the polls to decide who we want to be our Congressmen, Senators, Governors, and local officials. On a national level, the balance of power on Capitol Hill hangs in the balance. This is not an abstract concern for millions of blue collar working people and Americans of all economic classes worried about the future of our democracy. We can either vote to go backward on Election Day 2010 – or elect to continue our 234-year struggle toward a more perfect union.

For the most part, we’ll be deciding between Democrats and Republicans. For the most progressive among us, the choice between the Donkey and Elephant won’t be very inspirational.

But it will be critical.

Make no mistake. We cannot afford to allow the Democrats to lose their majorities in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

I can understand my progressive friends who feel that President Obama’s administration hasn’t moved fast enough on an array of important agenda items. (I’m not Press Secretary Gibbs.) But while I’m just as tired as anyone of hearing, “Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good” – the fact is, we’ve got to keep that bromide in mind this Election Day.

Now, we’ve got less that three months before the kick-off on November 2. It’s time to button up our bonnets, dig down, play hard – and stay focused on the end zone. Without a big push from progressives, President Obama could lose possession of the football. And if that prospect doesn’t scare you, I have five words for you…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

And here’s six more…

Speaker of the House John Boehner

Okay, on three, set…

Hut! Hut! Hike!

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Filed under Politics, Sports, Truth

The Saints Come Marching In…

You don’t need to read this blog to know that the long-suffering New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl this weekend. Their emphatic 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts touched off a party in the French Quarter that will ramble into the Mardi Gras festivities next week. Oh, how I long to be in that number, marching with the jazz bands stepping out down Bourbon Street, celebrating the Saints’ deliverance of the Crescent City from five years of neglect and misery after Hurricane Katrina nearly washed my father’s fabled hometown away.

For centuries, New Orleans has been the cradle of the Barrosse clan. It’s the only town in the United States where you can pick up a phonebook and find lots of people named Barrosse – and they’re all my kin. My father, Peter Adelmard Barrosse, was born there in 1927 (in the 9th Ward, near Jackson Barracks), and though he never again lived in the Big Easy after the Korean War, New Orleans loomed large in our family. We made a couple memorable visits to see my Grandma Barrosse and our many aunts, uncles and cousins – and I returned there several times in the 1980’s to work the Renaissance Faire in nearby Metairie. My grandmother, who lived to be 96, was still alive then – and the New Orleans Saints were still losers.

As if I didn’t suffer enough sports misery as a Cleveland Indians and Browns fan (and later a Cubs fan) – it was also my lot, through my father, to follow the Saints. The team was born at an NFL league meeting on November 1, 1966, which fell on All Saints Day. As New Orleans is just about the only Roman Catholic town in the south, the team’s ownership named them the Saints for the holiday on which they were born. For the next four decades, their heavenly name would be one of the few blessings this star-crossed franchise would receive.

The Saints played their first regular season game on September 17, 1967, in front of 80,879 fans at Tulane Stadium. The Saints returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown – and for 43 seasons, it was mostly downhill from there. Naturally, they lost that first game to the Los Angeles Rams — and ended their first season with a 3-11 record.

The only truly bright moment in Saints history, prior to their recent success, was the day in 1970 that their place-kicker, Tom Dempsey booted the longest field goal in NFL history.

On November 8, 1970, the Saints were, of course, trailing by one point in the final seconds of a game against the Detroit Lions. At that point, the only thing remarkable about the game was that the Saints actually had a chance to win it. However, it would take a miracle: a 63-yard field goal. Up to that point, nobody had kicked one longer than 56 yards. And that record was 17 years old.

Adding to the unlikely drama was the fact that the Saints kicker, Tom Dempsey, was born with no right hand and no toes on his right foot. Nonetheless, Dempsey electrified Saints fans – and stunned the football world – by drilling the ball 63 yards through the uprights and into the NFL history books. I was 12 years old at the time – and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. There was finally something about the Saints I could brag about. But that was just a fleeting, fantastical moment. Grim reality soon returned.

Dempsey lives in Metairie now, and because it seems divinely ordained that Saints should suffer — his house was flooded in the Hurricane Katrina deluge.

The year after Dempsey’s epic kick, the Saints drafted the Great Franchise Hope, Archie Manning. With the good-looking and talented Ole Miss star at quarterback, the Saints won the first game of the 1971 season, upsetting the Los Angeles Rams 24-20 at Tulane Stadium. But the Saints finished that year with a 4-8-2 record.

Despite Manning’s talent, and the adoration of his fans throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, Archie could not transform the Saints into a winner. The Manning family would have to wait another generation to put NFL championships in the family trophy case.

For too many years, too many seasons, too many games, and too many crushed hopes, New Orleans beloved Saints would become the ‘Aints. Fans wore bags over their heads, but they still came out to chant, “Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat say ‘dey gonna beat ‘dem Saints?”

Ironically, the Saints first Super Bowl victory, nearly 40 years after Archie Manning’s first season in New Orleans, came against Archie’s son, Peyton. Fate is always messing with ‘dem Saints.

Now, perhaps, the Saints curse has been lifted and a new period of hope, optimism and good luck will shine down from the heavens on the city of New Orleans. I sure hope so. My dad did not live to see what Katrina did to his city. It would have broken his heart. And he did not live to see this Super Bowl triumph, which would have thrilled him. But, if there was ever a football team being followed in heaven – wouldn’t it have to be the Saints?

So, Dad, how did you feel when Tracy Porter picked off Peyton Manning late in the fourth quarter and took the rock to the house, giving the Saints’ the Lombardi Trophy?

I think I heard you celebrating with the joyous throng in the Quarter last night. “Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat say ‘dey gonna beat ‘dem Saints?”

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Filed under History, Sports