America's real national pastime today is football, and that goes double for Louisiana. According to Hurricane Season: A Coach, His Team, and Their Triumph in the Time of Katrina author Neal Thompson, the people of that fine state have a passion for the sport that puts even their Texan neighbours to shame.
After the 9/11 attacks, the old national pastime -- especially the Yankees' ultimately unsuccessful playoff run -- proved a great unifier and healer for a damaged New York City. The NFL's historially inept New Orleans Saints, who came out of nowhere to make a serious playoff run of their own in 2006, did the same thing for Louisianans still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. And high school football did its part, especially for the students of a small, private Christian school with a storied football history.
John Curtis Christian School, founded in New Orleans in 1962, isn't large or wealthy enough to own its own football stadium. And the football team, the Patriots, doesn't turn away any student who wants to play, even if he ends up standing on the sidelines for most of the season. Some years, over 100 people have been on the roster, in a school with less than 650 students.
But the team wins. It wins a lot. It regularly walks away with the state championship for schools of its size, and often humiliates teams from much larger schools. The Patriots travel to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi to take on top high school teams, and just before Katrina struck, a squad from Utah was preparing to fly in and challenge the John Curtis team.
The Hurricane changed everything, of course, and the most compelling parts of Hurricane Season come when Thompson describes the days leading up to that catastrophic storm. The people of New Orleans have been through countless false alarms, and as Katrina bore down on their city, many of them just didn't believe it would be that bad.