There is no joy in Mudbugville. For now.

By Mike Scott

In sports, some things are simply universal. First and foremost: heartbreak. 

Ernest Thayer knew that well in 1888 when he published “Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888,” the famous baseball poem chronicling the crushed dreams of the denizens of Mudville upon watching the mighty and heroic Casey strike out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

A fleur-de-lis illumuniates the extrior of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans for the 2019 NFC Champsionship Game between the Saints and the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 20, 2019. (Photo by Mike Scott, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Some 131 years later, that emotion is all too fresh to fans here in Mudbugville, as they continue to grapple with the egregious missed call by officials during Sunday’s NFC Championship Game that cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to what is officially Super Bowl LIII — but which we’ve taken to calling Super Bowl LIE.

In a fit of self-therapy after Sunday’s larcenous display by officials, we took inspiration from Thayer’s work and came up with a reworked version of “Casey at the Bat.” We call it “The Heart of a Who Dat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 2019.” 

In so doing, we strove to preserve the sentiment and the meter of Thayer’s original poem but with Saints references peppering the verse in place of baseball references — and more importantly, paying homage to the resilience of Saints fans by the time it ends.

Because as much as this one still hurts, we’ll bounce back — and we’ll fill the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with even more noise next year. Because we are the Who Dats. 

And we always will be.

“The heart of a Who Dat:
A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 2019″
By Mike Scott

The outlook wasn’t brilliant down in Mudbugville that day;
the score was tied at 20 with five minutes left to play.
But the season had been magic, so the crowd rose to its feet,
Cheering on their hometown Saints, with one Who Dat heartbeat.

The Saints just needed one more score to reach their long-held goal:
to represent the NFC in that year’s Super Bowl.
The Rams were proving stubborn, though, brawling to the last.
They hungered, too, through and through, determined to hold fast.

The ball was at the 30 as Drew Brees dropped back on first.
Amid the din, a fear crept in and some braced for the worst.
But the Who Dats cheered regardless, unwilling to give in,
Screaming, shouting, chanting, as if they could will a win.

Drew threw to Carr for five yards, then to Ingram for three more.
Now third-and-two, but not yet through, they needed that last score.
The in-Dome noise grew louder as Kamara picked up eight.
A new set of downs! Hope rebounds! Could vict’ry be their fate? 

Then, praise and hallelujah! Ginn goes for forty-two!
Thirteen yards remained to gain; all eyes were glued on Drew.
A raucous howl rose from the crowd, drowning out the doubt.
A sense of hope warmed their hearts …

… The refs then ripped them out.

The next pass went to Lewis, who was fouled for all to see.
But no flags were thrown, no whistles blown. Damn the referee!
The drive would thrive no longer. They’d settle for a three.
But even worse, their bubble burst, irretrievably.

From eighty thousand throats and more there rose a lusty roar;
it rumbled from the river to the streets of the North Shore;
it echoed through New Orleans East, recoiled in Cocodrie;
it rocked Kenner, St. Bernard, Houma, Vacherie. 

The Saints would score no more that day. Their luck evaporated.
The Rams weren’t done. They scored and won — and L.A. was elated.
“We were robbed!,” cried some Saints fans. “‘Twas fixed!,” some others said.
None of that changed one cruel fact: Their title hopes were dead. 

But New Orleans knows a thing or two of heartache, loss and pain.
It’s weathered storms before, with pride; it’d weather them again.
The Non-Call would leave lasting scars, but they’d be overcome,
‘Cause the Who Dat heart is stronger than some blind, stripe-wearing bum.

Hope and faith in black and gold are just this city’s way,
a two-pronged part of who we art, like shrimp and etouffee.
They can’t take us away from us, that much is crystal clear.
There is still joy in Mudbugville. Just wait until next year. 

This story was originally published in January 2019 by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

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