NEW ORLEANS — It’s always something around here.
The book, which comes out in 10 days, tells a modern story of revival, how a beleaguered city and football team inspired each other back to life after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I helped Payton write the book.
When we got started right after the Super Bowl, one of the first things the coach said to me was, “Some of the money should go to charity.”
Sure, why not?
Back in February, there was no confusion as to what that meant. The Gulf region had come a long way in the five years since the storm and flooding. But there were still some glaring pockets of need.
Before the oil spill, devastation and Katrina were still almost synonyms.
Now that the book is written and Payton’s team is taking its final victory laps, Katrina feels as ancient as Noah’s Great Flood. Suddenly, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history is swirling in the same Gulf that delivered the hurricane.
“It’s like a slow-motion Katrina,” Payton was saying as people came into the restaurant and congratulated him. “The scale of it. The impact it will have on people’s lives. It’s really hard to get your mind around.”
To help, Payton just took all his players on a field trip down to the Gulf. They met with fishermen and oil workers. They watched the hapless cleanup effort. They agreed to raffle a Super Bowl ring to support the struggling families.
“People in this part of the country,” he said, “are very resilient. They’ve found inspiration. They have bounced back from previous tragedy.”
Last time it was his team — and the Super Bowl win — that provided much of that inspiration.
Who will do it this time as oil still gushes?
“We’ll have to do our part,” said the cockiest coach in all of football. “Don’t worry about that. A happy ending is something people never get tired of.”