Today, Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees it's "Sportsman of the Year" for 2010. Brees had quite a year, quarterbacking the New Orleans Saints to a win in Super Bowl XLIV, the city's first championship.
New Orleans has hosted plenty of championship events - Super Bowls, Sugar Bowls and Final Fours to name a few. But the city had never had a championship of their own.
Drew Brees was an undersized quarteback who was let go by the San Diego Chargers after the 2005 season. He was only shown interest from the Miami Dolphins and the Saints. He signed with the Saints, who were unsure where they would play for the 2006 season or if they would stay long-term in New Orleans. New Orleans had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and much of the city was still in disarray.
I remember the hair stand up on my arms and getting goosebumps when the Saints ran onto the field for the home opener in 2006. The Saints weren't supposed to be very good and they soundly won over the Atlanta Falcons.
Fast forward five years, the Gulf Coast has just dealt with the largest oil spill in U.S. history and it crippled the livelihood of many, not only in New Orleans or Louisiana, but the entire Gulf region that cheers for the Saints.
If you are a sports fan, part of the allure is forgetting your reality and living vicariously through your favorite teams. Drew Brees leads the sports face of New Orleans. The happiness that Drew Brees has brought to the fans of New Orleans, the escape from reality - even for three hours a week on Sunday - is invaluable.
I'm not suggesting that real life doesn't go away. Bills still need to be paid. Lives still need to be rebuilt. But our sports figures do provide a sense of satisfaction and one can only imagine the amount of satisfaction life-long, hurricane wrecked, oil spill covered New Orleans Saints fans feel when they watch Drew Brees and the Saints play football.
Drew Brees won the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, but it's been five years in the making.