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FORT WORTH, Texas - At first, it seemed like a tragic case of misplaced priorities, this notion of a vagabond Tulane team, wandering amongst the southern provinces in search of a dry place to practice football.
But shame on me.
Football, when administered properly, can be good medicine. And if there is anything that the hurricane victims in Louisiana need right now it's a strong elixir.
For a full week, I dialed cellphones that never answered. I searched on Web sites where the missing outnumbered the found by 20,000. I called the Red Cross. I got down on my knees and called God.
Football seems almost a pagan luxury when you have loved ones and childhood friends who are missing. But as an evacuated friend, finally located in Houston, asked during the weekend, "When is LSU going to play?"
He wanted the medicine.
I have a 92-year-old aunt, rescued and living in my home, who's worried about the toppled oak tree that currently sits in her kitchen back in New Orleans. I have a cousin who has found refuge in Baton Rouge, La., in a house with no furniture - and 11 other evacuees who've moved in with him.
They crave a return to their normal lives, while at the same time realizing that theirs may be months - six months, 12 months? - away.
Like the song says, they know what it means to miss New Orleans.
And for a lot of them, New Orleans means Tulane and the NFL Saints, and being able to see or listen to LSU football on a Saturday night.
Four years ago, this newspaper dispatched me to New York City to report on the first baseball game played in the aftermath of 9/11.
An honor guard carried in the flag that was found in the rubble at Ground Zero. The moment of silence before the game that night at Shea Stadium was as eloquent as poetry.
For everything, there is a season, I remember writing. A time to weep, a time to heal, a time to hope, and a time to play ball.
Books were later written that credit Yankees and Mets baseball as one of the things that helped to push New York City back onto its collective feet.
I can't argue. The medicine works.
Which is why I admire Tulane's doggedness. The university has canceled its fall semester classes.
"Our community needs hope," Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson explained to The Associated Press. "Our student-athletes represent hope for them. They will carry the torch and be the face, and display the name of Tulane University and the New Orleans community until we are able to come home and do that on our own campus."
In the meantime, owner Tom Benson and the Saints have announced that their first priority is to play their NFL home games this season at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.
For 39 seasons, New Orleanians have suffered with and supported the Saints.
In a city that both cries and laughs more than most, the Saints have been most frequently responsible.
Benson's second home is San Antonio, and it pained Saints' fans last year to hear veiled threats about spiriting the team away permanently to Texas.
For anyone in San Antonio, from a newspaper columnist to a councilman, to suggest such a thing now would be callous beyond words. The Saints mean that much to New Orleans.
In the wake of this past week, any organized effort by anyone in San Antonio to take away the Saints would be tantamount to looting.
In the unending scenes of the Katrina aftermath on TV, two things have touched my heart like no others.
One is the acts of courage by rescuers and those who have performed their duties under the most dire conditions.
Staff members of the New Orleans Times-Picayune had their building invaded by flood waters and later by gun-toting thugs, but the paper relocated to other parts of Louisiana and has bravely carried on. I have never been prouder to say that I once worked for the T-P.
My heart also never fails to get tugged by the random acts of kindness that the people of Texas have shown. Texans have opened up their homes, schools, shelters and stadiums for the hurricane victims.
After practicing at SMU, the Tulane football team will move next week to the campus of Louisiana Tech. But SMU, Texas Tech, Rice and Texas A&M will all host other Tulane athletic teams. God bless all of those schools.
For everything there is a season. Hopefully, soon, for the people of New Orleans, a time to again enjoy football.
(c) 2005, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.