Pardon me while I try to work through the fact that, with all the things I have to worry over, muse on, and rant about, the one that is really sticking in my craw is Sean Payton's recently announced commute from Dallas to New Orleans/Metairie to coach the Saints.
So my knee-jerk reactions were not the greatest, I admit. I personally don't dream of retiring to Dallas, which also has connotations of being former Hizzoner the Walking Id's chosen place of residence. Schlepping off to C. Ray Land in my dotage just isn't right for me.
There's also the added twinge of hypocrisy in a coach identifying himself so with the recovery of New Orleans and then saying later, 'gators. How does that help with recruiting new players? The now-legendary tale of Payton getting lost while driving Drew and Brittany Brees 'round the recently flood-devastated city doesn't quite have the same sort of ring to it when you say, "Well, I don't really live in the greater New Orleans area anymore," rather than, "I'm rebuilding a team in a city that's hurting, and I want you to be an integral part of it."
Yes, none of what I mentioned is exactly fair. The first one reminds me of when a fellow synagogue board member at out shul in Queens stood up on hearing we were moving back to New Orleans after only four years in NYC and indignantly asked us if we knew all the time we'd been active synagogue members that we'd be going back down south, like we'd been leading on everybody who had such hopes of continuing the legacy of the shul by passing it down to people like us. I now have an inkling of what she feels. There was really no good time to announce this news, and I commend the Paytons for having the brass cojones and steel ovaries to say this was the place they liked as a family. I don't put much stock in Payton saying the Saints will be his last coaching job, but hey, who knows?
The second point - the recruiting - is not much of a whoop, either, if Payton keeps his commitment to his players on solid footing. Hell, most of the Saints players don't live in New Orleans full time. It is a fact of being in the NFL, and it all has us as fans essentially "rooting for laundry" on one level, but it also has us rooting for an ideal: a team we can get behind, for gutsy plays and good sporting attitudes, for our own home fires.
What still rankles, though, is that he talked about his kids nearing high school age and that he felt this was the time to make the move, implying that, in terms of bringing up his kids, this area was not up to his par. And that just didn't feel right, because it felt all too true.
Talks with other families who want to move here constantly drive home to me how tough it can be to raise a family here when you are staunchly working-class or middle-class. Pre-kindergarten classes in the charters are no longer free for 3-year-old children. The public schools that were good before the storm are still the good ones five years on, and trying to get into them is more difficult than ever. The only recourse most families have is to pay for grade school what a college education once cost, homeschool...or move.
This is, indeed, no way to raise a family. It highlights how much more we have to do to be a diverse place that attracts more than just the single twenty- and thirty-somethings and the connected.
We can't turn back time and make it so that Sean Payton dreams of retiring here instead, but we are all still here and still willing to stick it out to make this place live for us.
At least he still wants to help in whatever way he can. I welcome that.
I suggest he start by seeing how Play It Forward can better assist in helping New Orleans schools.