One man’s admiration for Reggie Bush and ties to New Orleans

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Reggie Bush

There will be, no doubt, dozens of stories written about Reggie Bush. Each will tell the story of this complicated athlete from a unique perspective, and I guess my story will be from my own unique perspective as well.

It was hard to argue with his on field explosives and sometimes it was hard to explain off field missteps or to grasp just how a professional athlete could so often put his golden cleats in his mouth with such regularity. But, all those things put together made him the Reggie Bush we loved and hated.

Although Brian Urlacher didn’t like it, didn’t we all smile just a little when he danced right in front of the over sized linebacker on the ice slick turf of Soldier Field? Didn’t we all want a pair of his golden cleats despite the NFL’s disapproval?

We were a city and a people who had been beaten and battered by winds and flooding and it gave us a little swagger back. So he talked smack. Deep down we all wanted to because we had been begging in food lines and at shelters not long before. He was like that cousin who sings to loud at a wedding but it wouldn’t be the same without him.

I was on dialysis in New York City when Katrina wiped out so much of the New Orleans i had grown up loving. I got a new kidney and a new lease on life but wasn’t allowed to come home to the Big Easy for a long time because my doctors feared I’d get an infection from mold, mildew and spores in the air. But eventually they did and what I saw from the window of my US AIR flight brought me to tears.

The flight hugged the Mississippi Coast where nothing stood but junk piled on junk where once mansions and hotels presided over beaches. As we got closer to New Orleans all that I had known for my entire life was tattered and torn and covered in ugly blue tarps. Everything else was battered and brown.

I pressed my face against the cold glass and I cried real tears, never trying to hold back a single one. I saw no signs of life, no signs of hope.

And then, if guided by the angels, the flight took us over New Orleans itself and, there white as driven snow was the gleaming white roof of the Superdome gleaming brighter than the day it opened. I stopped crying for a moment until we banked again over City Park.

I had grown up riding my bike in City Park, fishing (without success) in its bayous and golf course waters. I had tried to play golf on its green courses now turned ugly brown from the salt water that had killed anything of beauty in a once beautiful park. I began to think about football games and baseball exhibition games and of The Beatles and other bands who had performed in Tad Gormley Stadium on the green field surely browned by Katrina’s wrath.

Then, as though some enchanted leprechaun had granted my hometown a desperate wish, I saw an emerald green football field filling the stadium from concrete stand to concrete stand in a horseshoe that seemed heaven sent.

If the green turf were truly heaven sent, then heaven must have sent us Reggie Bush because it was the Saints No. 1 pick, a braggadocious kid from USC, who paid to have the field sodded and tended to so that high school football players, marching bands, and fans could find at least a little joy in what other wise would have been a joyless Mudville.

Not long after, there was No. 25 haphazzardly handing out groceries from trucks and then jumping over pylons on touchdown runs.

However mixed my feelings about Reggie Bush may be, I will never forget that he gave players a field to play on. He gave marching bands grass to march on. And, more importantly, he gave one writer an idea that something bigger was happening in his hometown.

Like Drew Brees, Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and the entire Benson family, Reggie Bush became a Patron Saints and gave New Orleans a reason to believe.

I should know. It’s why I titled my book that way.

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