On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts won to advance to the Super Bowl. Football fans around the nation and across the globe tuned in to see these top teams knock off the last competition that stood in their ways of the NFL's championship game.
For columnists in Indianapolis and New Orleans, this was an especially emotional time to write about their teams. Writers covering their cities' squads offer criticism and frustration when their teams struggle, and inject support and adoration during winning times. While national sports writers too cover the games, there's no personal investment involved and they are, therefore, more objective in their analysis and recaps. But with that objectivity comes a certain loss. Unbiased accounts, while welcome in the journalism world, can only report. They don't convey the outpouring of raw emotion that the players, their fans, and the writers who follow them all enjoy together.
Take a look at how local writers covered their teams' wins versus how national columnists approached the sports day. Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star chose to highlight the Colts' dominant season that fell a bit short of perfection:
After reading Kravitz's column, you get a sense of how much this game and season means to the Colts' fans. Similarly, Jeff Duncan wrote in the Times-Picayune about the Saints' rise from the bottom of the league.
When it was over, there was Caldwell, flashing a rare smile as the time bled off the clock. There was Garcon, proudly using his performance as a platform on which to make the case for Haitian relief. There was Kelvin Hayden, taking a family portrait on the confetti-strewn field. And there was Manning, looking as proud as he's ever looked. Now it's all about legacy-building, about carving out a place in history. They never got the shot at the perfect season. But now, they get a chance to script the perfect ending.
For each of these franchises, reaching the Super Bowl means so much more than earning the chance to take home the gold. it goes beyond sports. The match-up pins up against each other symbols of resilience and rebuilding. These are small-market cities that have their times to shine. In these cases, local newspapers can do more than report - they can echo the voice of the city's people.
Earlier this year, Brees eloquently spoke about the Saints' season of destiny. He understood the specialness of the season even as it was taking place before his eyes. "Maybe it's our time," Brees said that day in Washington after yet another miraculous Saints win. Indeed, it is. And Sunday night it certainly was. After 43 years of famine, finally, a feast. Get ready Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints are coming.
At the same time, however, national fans seek summaries of the game from other publications. Here's a sampling of what they emphasized in their columns today:
- Mike Wise wrote in the Washington Post about Peyton Manning's ascent to the top tier of quarterbacks.
- Bob Ryan wrote in the Boston Globe about the sloppiness of the NFC championship game in which the Saints eyed out a win.
- Ray Ratto wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle about the unfair overtime rule that helped decide the Saints-Vikings game.
That doesn't mean everyone missed the boat. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times tried to outline for his readers just how important this game was to New Orleans. He said:
Plaschke's perspective, though, still comes through as an outsider looking in, recognizing that something larger is going on. For the beat writers for the Colts and Saints, this has been evident throughout the season as their teams have climbed the standings and won the hearts of more fans with every victory. Now that the Super Bowl is on the horizon, writers from other cities are starting to take notice of the movements that have developed inside these small, off-the-path places.
In the end of an exhilarating Sunday night, it seems the Saints deserved to be running through the confetti and smoke to the Superdome stands like little kids looking for their parents, posing and waving and chanting, a town and a team joined.
Even though bigger papers have more money and acclaim and employ arguably better writers, they can't cover everything. As the season progressed, their writers had to follow the hometown teams in favor of the other stories going on around the league. Now that there are just two teams left, all eyes are on them. But for those who have been with the Saints and Colts every second along their journey, they are already miles ahead on this story. Sometimes if you want to know what's really happening, you have to go to the sources. Everyone else is just a little late to the game.