"It's OK to hate the Saints again"

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And so it begins. If anyone had any illusions that the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal wasn't going to morph into some "It's OK to hate New Orleans again" anti-spirit by the national media ... well, you don't know the national media, and you don't know New Orleans. Take it away, Josh Zerkle of Bleacher Report:

Ever since the Gulf coast was flooded by the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans and their football team have been a beacon of goodwill, sympathy and other warm fuzziness. From a PR standpoint, the team was bulletproof, and the Saints' rise to prominence became a symbol of the city's efforts to rebuild itself.

That's great...unless you grew up hating the Saints. ...

But the Saints made the most of their moment in the sun. They won 10 games in 2006 and made the playoffs. Three years later, they won the Super Bowl. The storybook finally had its ending, but the Saints still had that air of distinction that made them impossible to hate. This bounty scandal nullifies all of that, and while I generally disagree with the sentiment that it should, I'm more than happy to accept that it does.

Etc. Etc. This may not be quite the first and it surely won't be the last; it's just a sidebar to the story that's going to spin out in the weeks and months ahead.

Believe me, we understand what's going on here; it's the sports equivalent of the political dog whistle. I know a lot of people who don't like the Falcons or the Giants or the 49ers, but don't seem to bear a general animus toward Atlanta or New York or San Francisco per se. The Saints, somehow, are different — and have been different ever since 2005. So much of the distaste for the Saints seems wrapped up in a distaste for New Orleans the place that it's hard to separate the two.

Last December's cri de coeur Saints essay, "We Make the Rules, Pal," by the blogger Grandmaster Wang reads a bit differently in the wake of the bounty news — but this passage hasn't changed a bit:

Oh sure, they pretended to love us for about 15 minutes in February 2010. They capitalized on the chumps-to-champs angle. They emoted as publicly as possible and tugged on as many heartstrings as they could over the Federal Flood. They said "Nawlins" over and over and over. Gumbo this and Mardi Gras that. They exploited the shit out of us and milked it for all 'Murika considered it worth.

It was all so cute and quirky and hip. A little "edgy" yet wholesome as milk. Real funky but not threatening. Made for great media. A tightly-scripted little melodrama that if you didn't know any better you might have mistaken for an HBO Original Series.

And the critics raved for some reason.

But it wasn't supposed to get renewed.

It was a nice little piece of drama that ended happily, with the triumphant protagonist holding his toddler son and everything. But that was supposed to be the end of it. "Nice. Hey, good for you. Okay, run along now." And then we were supposed to go away.

But we didn't go away.

That pretty much sums it up. There are people out there who really don't like New Orleans — and that's fine; I don't like Wilco or blue cheese; de gustibus etc. — but let's not use the Saints' jockstraps as fig leaves here. When a Zerkle rejoices that he gets to hate the Saints again, it's shorthand for another feeling: That hurricane is over, I'm sick of hearing about it, and screw New Orleans; I never liked it in the first place.

But I think Bleacher Report got the headline backwards: "New Orleans Bounty Scandal Makes It OK to Hate the Saints Again"? No; the story is: "Saints Bounty Scandal Makes It OK to Hate New Orleans Again."

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