PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Minutes after watching the miraculous revitalization of the city of New Orleans thanks to the Saints' 31-17 upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, Haitian President Rene Preval contacted the National Football League about securing a football team for his earthquake-ravaged island nation.
"If simply winning an important football contest can alleviate the socioeconomic suffering of a tragically beleaguered people, then that seems the way to go," declared Preval, referring to the abrupt turnaround experienced by the Big Easy Sunday night following the devastation of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. "It makes a whole lot more sense than enjoining Justin Timberlake to perform Leonard Cohen songs."
Much as the Saints reversed their fortunes Sunday evening after falling behind to the Colts, 10-0, in the first quarter, behind the pinpoint passing accuracy of quarterback Drew Brees, Garrett Hartley's clutch, long-distance field goals and coach Sean Payton's nervy play-calling, the city itself rebounded impressively on Sunday, as well.
"Four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening when 85 percent of the city was underwater from Katrina, with most people not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back," Brees said after the victory. "This is the culmination of that belief and that faith."
On Sunday, thousands who had abandoned their water-damaged homes returned to find their domiciles completely renovated. The Ninth Ward, which had essentially been a ghost town since September 2005, was suddenly restored as a thriving urban center. Gangs, which had overtaken the city in Katrina's aftermath, elevating its murder rates to unprecedented levels, disappeared, seemingly overnight.
The only challenge remaining to the city's politicians was how to clean up the astonishing number of condoms clogging street gutters following the ecstatic celebration of revelers caught up in the Saints' impressive dominance of the Colts.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the sport's premiere athlete and a New Orleans native, admitted after the game that he was rooting for the Saints, as well.
"You know that interception I threw to Tracy Porter near the end with the game on the line?" Manning coyly asked reporters. "Completely intentional. There are stately old mansions in my old neighborhood that hadn't been restored, nearly five years after the fact, and I simply found that unconscionable. If my being the goat meant that New Orleans would rebound, then that's a pretty small price to pay for social change."
Not all were pleased, however. Televangelist Pat Robertson decried New Orleans' "deal with the devil" that allowed the city to suffer for agonizing years before its turnaround. Asked why anyone would make a deal with the devil that would ensure such suffering, Robertson began speaking in tongues -- or, perhaps, suffered a stroke.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell affirmed that the League would take Haiti's request into consideration.
"If you've ever seen those 'NFL Cares' spots on our website -- and, occasionally, during games, though not too much because that would cut down on the money pouring into the networks' coffers -- then you know that we value assisting the downtrodden far over fattening the bank accounts of our owners and players," Goodell said. "If Haiti can present us with a viable business plan -- and can find investors willing to build a billion-dollar, state-of-the-art stadium -- then I believe a deal can be struck that will put an end to their crippling poverty."
Additional reporting came from Judith Miller contributing from Miami and Jayson Blair in New Orleans.