The major sports leagues in this country spend a lot of time and effort trying to look like good citizens. Teams, leagues, and individual athletes team up with charities, raise money, do public appearances, and often get themselves on film or in pictures taking part in public service. Cynical people like me often assume that this is done purely for show, in order to "prove" to local communities that the tax money they spent on the local stadium, money that's going mostly into the team owner's pockets, is having a beneficial effect.
This is a different story. It might not sound like it at first--the New Orleans Saints took a day off of practice to go to a New Orleans neighborhood and help clean up some Katrina destruction. (We'll come back to that in a bit.) Here's the difference.
They kept it a secret.
Originally, Tuesday was supposed to be an OTA session, but [head coach Sean] Payton notified players on Monday they were going to work the next day, and he recommended they dress in jeans. But this is what I like most: He notified almost no one else.No cameras, no interviews, no public relations people standing to the side proclaiming how wonderful it was that this team was restoring hope to a troubled community, yadda yadda yadda. Just a hundred guys who make more money on a Sunday than many in New Orleans make in a year getting out there for four hours and cleaning stuff up. The story came later.
"This was pretty much a secret for the past eight days," said Kristin Gisleson Palmer, director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans. "They didn't want a big press conference. The way I understood it is that (Payton) really wanted his guys to work and to work hard because this was their chance to give back to the community.
"It wasn't until they were nearly finished that people in the neighborhood knew what was going on. So there wasn't a lot of stopping and gawking. This wasn't a photo opportunity. They were here to work."
There's a bad side to the story, of course, and it should be fairly obvious. Hurricane Katrina came through nearly three years ago now, and there hasn't been a major storm hit New Orleans since then. So why is there still so much work to be done? How much longer will groups be able to use Katrina damage as a photo-op, as a way to get good-deed points in the public eye? Why are we going on three freaking years of this crap?
Article XXXI of the Articles of Impeachment Rep. Kucinich put forward is titled "Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency." The initial response was criminal, but the follow-up has been equally bad. That we haven't gotten a major US city squared away nearly 3 years after a disaster is testament to how bad things are. We are shamed as a nation by this, and good deeds done by football players won't change that.