A Lesson on Grief from a Who Dat

The Who Dat Nation (a/k/a New Orleans Saints’ fans) are in a deep state of grief over the murder of our hopes of seeing our team play in Super Bowl LIII (a/k/a #SuperBowlLIE). The massacre occurred when at least two – if not three – highly-trained, qualified, and experienced NFL officials failed to call two obvious penalties on the same play – a pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact. This cold-blooded slaughter of a people’s hopes and dreams was witnessed by 73,000 or so fans in the stands and millions of viewers around the world.

The Who Dats are banding together mourning that grief with an outpouring of reactions that range from petitions for justice, to lawsuits, to downright hilarious memes, to pulling our support of the upcoming game (#boycottbowl), to pulling our support for the advertisers who pad the coffers of the NFL. We are coming together in our little corners of the world to mourn our loss and to celebrate the season that was.

National sports’ pundits have chimed in with outrage. Even fans of other teams have lent compassion and support because “there but for the Grace of God….” Other fans have experienced “lesser losses” in the form of a bad call that may have cost them a game or a missed call that hampered their hopes of winning. So, they kinda know how we feel.

 “Football” losses and “real” losses are a lot alike.

Hopes and Dreams Slain

When we experience real loss in life, hopes and dreams die. Ask anyone going through a divorce if it was their hope and dream to suffer heartbreak. More likely, they’d tell you that they were looking forward to a lifetime of love and happiness. Next time you pass a debtor in the halls of bankruptcy court, inquire as to where ruin and humiliation fit into their financial plan. When you hear the shattering news of another young person taken by accident or illness or addiction – no need to wonder if any hopes or dreams died with them.

By definition “loss” means that certain hopes and dreams will not come to pass. Whether it is never growing old together, never seeing a daughter walk across the stage at graduation, or tuning into the Hallmark Channel when you had big plans of a Super Bowl party – hopes and dreams are devastated.

Rally of Support

In the initial shock of devastation, support from all sources is at its peak. In the beginning, especially for those fans filing out of the Super Dome, there were no words. The fans marched in their collective silent support as the devastation soaked in. Sometimes life’s “real” losses are like that too. We have no words to describe the hurt so we give others a pass on coming up with them as well. Silence reigns supreme in the beginning.

It is also in the beginning when support is the greatest. Support for the Who Dat nation and will never be greater than it is at this moment in time. Encouragement is pouring in from all corners of the globe. Okay, that part might or might not be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, we’ve become one because we are “one” in our loss. Yet, just like in real losses, each journey is different. While we are united with Ms. Benson, Drew Brees, nearly a million people who’ve signed petitions, Sean Payton, the rest of the Saints Team and franchise, and the guy down the bayou – each one of us feels the let down differently – because we each have a unique relationship with the “team.” We each had similar – yet very different – hopes and dreams for this season.

Even distractors and “enemies” bond in times like these. Other teams have not had a Conference Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl ripped from them, but they do their best to empathize. Why do they even care? Because our “larger” loss serves to remind them of past losses and hangs as a heavy warning that they too are not immune from additional loss. The corollary and the thing that binds foes in difficult times is that sometimes we go through circumstances that we wouldn’t wish on our worse enemy. We join together to support change in order that no one ever endure similar loss again.

This rally of support won’t last forever. In reality, it can’t. It’s too intense. It will eventually mellow out. #BoycottBowl is unlikely to become an annual event (but one can hope).

The unfortunate thing is that it will mellow at a different pace for each one of us. Just a in real life and real loss – the intensity fades at different rates. At some point, you may find yourself saying to a fellow Who Dat, “Let it go. It’s over. Move on.” Maybe for you, but maybe not for your fellow Who Dat. Some Who Dats may never “move on” and can only hope to “move forward” through the valley of what should have been. It’s like that in the real world too.

Cries for Justice

We, the People, are wired for justice. We may argue about how to define “justice” – but we all seek justice. Most especially when we are the ones who’ve been wounded. When our hopes are dashed, we petition. Why me? Why anyone? Why this? Why now? Why ever? Who Dats are unlikely to get satisfactory answers to our confusion over how a travesty of the rules could occur on such a big stage and at such a critical point in the game. Much the same, we, in our personal losses, are unlikely to be satisfied with answers to why even if such answers were possible to obtain.

People boycott. It makes perfect sense to issue an embargo against the “official” yogurt, beer, or puppy food of the NFL in the wake of a football loss.  After all, there’s no reason to support the sellers whose advertising dollars support the injustice inflicted upon us.

Boycotts and embargoes don’t always play out as well in the “real world.” Rarely do we have a legitimate place to direct our “boycott,” Instead, we subconsciously pull away from activities or hobbies that we once enjoyed. After the rallied support dissipates, we may embargo the support of relationships with friends and family – relationships that are desperately needed to weather personal losses.

Sometimes, the “boycotts” go further and deeper – separating us temporarily or longer from our faith.

No, boycotts do not work as well outside the marketplace.

What’s a Who Dat to Do?


This long-time mantra of the Who Dat Nation tells us a lot about how to “move forward” when “moving on” isn’t an option. Who Dats and those from South Louisiana are a resilient bunch. We’ve endured decades of losing seasons. We’ve withstood about as many named and unnamed storms as life can throw at us.

In the face of it all, what do Who Dats do?

We make a gumbo. We throw a parade. We wind through streets in a second line.The secret is believing. Everyone could all take a page from the Who Dat Book of Grief and “Believe.”

Here are few things worth believing:

  • The pain will not always be this intense. (No matter what you are currently going through)
  • Music is good for the soul.
  • It could always be worse.
  • Prayer changes things.
  • Life is worth celebrating.
  • We all possess the power to make a difference someone’s world.
  • We are all stronger than we think.
  • Hope is worth pursuing.

My prayer for the Who Dats is that as we connect with others over this joint loss, we’ll take time to reconnect with friends and family who have been or are going through individual losses. I pray that our heightened spirit of injustice over a no-call spills over into our real lives. I pray that the Who Dat spirit continues to shine bright and burns longer than any news cycle.

Bless You, Boys! Thank you for an amazing season. You are now and will always be real champions!


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