I think I am like a lot of football fans in that I think the Colts will defeat the Saints easily, but I will be rooting hard for the Saints.
The Colts did not lose a game this season in which they tried. The Saints lost to my beloved 3-13 Buccaneers and no team that has lost to the Bucs has won a Super Bowl in that same season. The Colts have Peyton Manning, who'd take a sack over throwing into traffic. The Saints are here because of Brett Favre, who thinks it is no big deal to roll right and throw across the middle. (I love Percy Harvin, but I was ecstatic when Favre threw that pick. My hatred for Favre runs deep.)
As much as I like Manning as a quarterback, he is still in orange and white in my mind. The Sports Illustrated cover of him wrestling an alligator, in addition to the covers of Danny Wuerffel after defeating Manning and this season preview cover, made him Public Enemy Number One for this young Gator fan. Looking at Sunday, Manning faces Bobby McCray, whose years in Gainesville overlapped with mine. Plus, how can I root against the guy who made it his personal mission to take out Favre? (Favre will always be a Packer to me. I never understood how a Bucs fan could root for him. I justify rooting for the Saints because division rivals Falcons and Panthers are so trashy they make Saints fans look like the Kennedys.)
For me, it goes beyond a Florida-Tennessee connection, or even rooting for the NFC over the AFC. I am a huge sucker for New Orleans. An ex-girlfriend's family was from New Orleans and when I visited in 2006, I fell in love with the town. I own a New Orleans Breakers USFL shirt and my primary fantasy football team has been the New Orleans "blank" since 2005. (The name is always a connection to post-Katrina; Refugees, Revival, Rebirths, Renewal, Recovery.) New Orleans is not for everyone. If you're one of those people who constantly worries about dark shadows or does not drink in dingy bars, it's not for you.
New Orleans is also one of the most important cities in American history. Its place on the Mississippi River made it the crown jewel of the Louisiana Purchase and one of the most important cities of the new United States. When the British tried to invade New Orleans at the close of the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson rallied the city's whites and blacks to join the outnumbered US Army and repel the British. It was a base for the slave trade, but was not destroyed by the Union Army in the Civil War, unlike other major Southern cities. It has always struggled with race relations and they only killed Jim Crow so they could get the NFL. It was the birthplace of Louis Armstrong's jazz and Tennessee Williams' writing. The music inspired by New Orleans, in every decade, has been fantastic.
New Orleans, for good and bad, moves at its own pace. That's the reason for their corruption and terrible roads and schools. But that pace is what inspired their culture and forged the personalities of the natives. A lot of Southern cities have had their heritage ruined by Sun Belt growth and cookie cutter homes like in Atlanta, Houston and Tampa. New Orleans remains in a water surrounded bubble, with the River, the Lake and the Gulf keeping in the culture and keeping out a whitewash.
All that history, triumph, tragedy, and not one athletic championship of worth. It was only Saturday when they got their first Hall of Famer. Maybe that all changes today, and sometimes the Super Bowl gives us incredible upsets. But, more often, it gives us blowouts.
The pick: Indianapolis Colts 31 - New Orleans Saints 17
What I want to see: New Orleans Saints 30 - Indianapolis Colts 24 (overtime)