Lessons from Katrina: Loss Will Serve To Strengthen New Orleans Saints

Joe GerrityCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 19:  Fans of the New Orleans Saints sit in the stands after losing to the Dallas Cowboys at the Louisiana Superdome on December 19, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

If there is one thing to have learned from Katrina, it's that things are always darkest before the dawn.

For years of my youth I dismissed that same phrase as a tired cliché, not applicable to anything in real life. Although the meaning was clear, never for me had any actual loss been required for a greater future good.

Maybe when you are young it's just too hard to see things clearly.

After the entire mess that was Katrina, and the improvements that have come as a result, I have a new-found appreciation for what most label as a cliché.

Sometimes it's hard to really improve what you have when things are going OK. It's more difficult to make repairs and tweaks when results are good.

In any walk of life, you might know that what you are doing isn't ideal for the long term, but instead of making changes that hurt things in the short term, you just press on, doing things you know to be ultimately unwise.

This idea of "If it ain't entirely broke, don't fix it," is pretty much the standard for when society solves problems, not only in football, but many aspects of life.

Most of New Orleans, no matter how personally Katrina hurt them, knows deep down that in some ways Katrina was good for the city as a whole. I would elaborate, but if the hundreds of conversations I've had on the subject are any indication, there is no need.

My old, creaky, dilapidated, 60-year-old fraternity house burned down a few years ago. It had been due for renovations for some time, but instead was just allowed to essentially fall to the ground. In it's place, a brand new $2.5 million state-of-the-art house stands today.

A few years ago the Patriots rode a tired, mentally exhausted team all the way to the Super Bowl. Only then were they finally brought down by an obviously inferior Giants team. One has to wonder if they might have been better off learning from defeat earlier in the year.

What I'm talking about applies to the Saints as well.

They have been hit hard, damaged if you will, and can be assured to turn out better because of it.

The quest for perfection was just too challenging, both mentally and physically, for it to last two more months.

Already there had been close calls, week after week, to teams that had no business competing, let alone leading.

All season the Saints and their opponents have played each other as if it were the Super Bowl, and for good reason. For many other teams, playing the Saints was arguably the biggest game of their year.

They went into those games as prepared as they could be, often having game-planned weeks in advance.

Brees and the Saints' coaches are known to be amongst the hardest workers in a cutthroat league, and preparing for a playoff game every week can be wearing on a brain. At some point the mind needs some time to unwind and recharge.

After all, the playoffs are grueling enough without having been forced to face the same intensity the entire season prior.

Physically, the Saints played all-out, despite having a two-page long injury list. Heading into the Dallas game these were the active Saints listed:

DT Sedrick Ellis

CB Jabari Greer

K Garrett Hartley

DE Bobby McCray

TE Jeremy Shockey

T Jon Stinchcomb

T Jermon Bushrod

G Jahri Evans

LB Scott Fujita

C Jonathan Goodwin

LB Marvin Mitchell

G Carl Nicks

CB Tracy Porter

RB Pierre Thomas

It's being reported that Saints RB Reggie Bush will sit out the remainder of the regular season to rest-up for the playoffs. I imagine there will be a number of other Saints who will join him on the sidelines for some R-and-R.

With a playoff berth and homefield advantage all but assured throughout the postseason, the Saints can afford to take some time off to rest and re-evaluate things—an opportunity they would not have been afforded had they beaten Dallas.

So things might look bad now, Saints fans. Analysts will talk their trash and we may see a good number of bandwagon jumpers. You will hear how Minnesota and Dallas are the real contenders. Some might even start calling us the 'Aints again.

To be brief, things might look rather dark.

Don't be fooled by the "experts." The Saints are better off after this loss and are now more likely than ever before, to win their first Super Bowl. With 13 wins and one loss, this is still the best start ever by a Saints team and is tops in the NFC.



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