It's the first high school and college football weekend of the regular season and the scoreboard isn't the only thing I've been keeping an eye on. Hurricane Gustav has got my attention.
A quick click on my bio lets you know that I spent three years working in Monroe, Louisiana - but that is just the tip of my Louisiana connection. In truth, my Bayou state blood runs thicker than some of those accents you'll hear in a Jefferson Parish po-boy shop.
I was born at Lakeside Hospital in Metairie, and although I grew up in Houston...New Orleans has always been my home away from home. It's kept that status because the majority of my (large) family is still in the Crescent City.
But not this weekend.
My Dad's parents, along with my two aunts, two uncles, and Marlee the blind cat evacuated to Tuscaloosa, AL. My Mom's mother and two of her four sisters are in Jackson, MS. Numerous family friends, and psuedo Aunts, Uncles, and cousins (that's what you do in New Orleans) headed for Baton Rouge and other points further west.
This is all too familiar. It does not seem like it's been three years since Katrina. The Gulf Coast is not ready. It could've been five years, even ten years...and they still wouldn't be ready.
My Grandparents, Godmother, Uncle, two cousins, and I sat in Monroe in August of '05 and watched as the national news stations told us that "New Orleans dodged a bullet". Then the sun came up.
It took time, but homes were rebuilt and lives were put back together. In the end, all that really matters is that all of MY loved ones were okay. Not everyone is lucky enough to say that.
I spent the next year telling "Katrina stories" on the air. The Saints played their "home opener" in New York City. LSU's basketball arena was used as a triage hospital. Bastrop High won the 4A state football title with a Katrina evacuee as its quarterback. Eight months later, the Rams title was stripped after accusations arose that the Bastrop coaches illegally recruited those players to come to Bastrop. So just to prove a point, the Rams went ahead and won the next two state championships after that.
In most cases, the stories had a happy ending. The Saints marched back into New Orleans the following year and came up one win shy of the Super Bowl. LSU won the first Sugar Bowl played back in New Orleans, and won a national championship in the same building one year later. The reason those "Katrina stories" were so compelling is because of the adversity that was overcome.
And it makes sense. An old coach once told me that you can't win until you learn how to lose.
But with another storm approaching the Gulf Coast - I don't want to be telling "Gustav stories" for the next year...because hopefully people haven't had to learn how to lose this time around.
Go away, Gustav.