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Sunday, February 7, 2010
Updated: February 8, 12:56 PM ET
Don't turn out the lights on the party

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- Dear Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith:

If you guys screw this up, we're going to make you tongue-clean the French Quarter streets after the New Orleans Saints' victory parade. Police horses included.

We're going to have you explain to each person inside and outside of Sun Life Stadium on Sunday evening why the Super Bowl might go away in 2012.

We're going to demand your resignations if you deprive us of this league, these Super Bowls and these kinds of moments. Can you imagine had a labor lockout cost us the football miracle known as the 2009 Saints?

Don't do it, fellas. Don't shut down the NFL because your greed glands became enlarged. If it's not broke -- and we know the owners' wallets are anything but broke -- don't fix it.

NFL commissioner Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director Smith saw what everyone saw Sunday night: a game, a Saints team and a history lesson to remember.

This was the Saints' first championship. It was their first anything involving the Lombardi Trophy.

Wait, that's not completely true. Less than four hours before kickoff, the Saints' Tracy Porter was sitting in a chair as his personal barber turned the cornerback's scalp into a work of art. He shaved out a Lombardi Trophy, the Superdome and SB 44 on Porter's head. A hair road ran from the Superdome to the trophy.

The whole thing cost Porter $40 "and a nice tip.'' So what if he missed the first team bus to the stadium. He was there in time to jump a Peyton Manning pass to Reggie Wayne, return it 74 yards for the game-clinching touchdown and instantly increase alcohol consumption in The Quarter tenfold.

"I have to say this team means more to the people of Louisiana than any team in the NFL,'' said Porter. "No one is behind this team as much as the people of New Orleans. They're just as much a part of this victory as we are.''

Hear that, Goodell and Smith? Your ridiculous posturing over revenue sharing threatens the very thing that helped sustain the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The Saints are partly responsible for New Orleans recovering its heart, its soul and its confidence. What Katrina took away, the Saints gave back.

"What can I say?'' said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the Super Bowl MVP. "We played for so much more than just ourselves. We played for our city. We played for the entire Gulf Coast region. We played for the entire Who Dat Nation who was behind us every step of the way.''

Silly as it might sound, football matters to people. Matters more than it should sometimes. Other times -- such as it does in New Orleans -- it matters just the right amount. It revives. It puts a smiley face on a community. It makes believers out of doubters.

"Absolutely,'' said Brees. "Are you kidding me? I mean, four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening? … We just all looked at one another and said, 'We're going to rebuild together. We're going to lean on each other.'''

Brees was talking about the Saints, but he could have been talking about New Orleans, too.

Goodell, this is what your NFL owners need to understand.

Smith, this is what your player constituency needs to comprehend.

Had there been a lockout this season, the Saints' season would have never existed. Their 31-17 Super Bowl upset would have never happened.

Think about it.

No Brees completing a Super Bowl-tying 32 pass attempts for 288 yards and two touchdowns. No poignant postgame moment of Brees holding his young son as the celebration unfolded.

No Jeremy Shockey TD moment. An injured (and soon-to-be ex-)New York Giant in 2007. A Super Bowl touchdown reception for the Saints in 2010.

No game-changing onside kick (and recovery) by the Saints to start the second half. So well-conceived was the play, that Thomas Morstead made sure that his last warm-up kick during halftime was a boomer toward the end zone. He wanted to lull the Colts into thinking an onside play was an impossibility.

No Sean Payton calling for the stunning onsider. No Payton going for it -- and missing -- on a fourth-and-goal at the Colts' 1 late in the first half.

No Porter interception return.

No Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney playing on one ankle.

No Colts running back Joseph Addai nearly breaking Saints safety Darren Sharper's ankle on a fake.

No Manning saying, "It's the Super Bowl. You never know how it's going to turn out.''

No Gregg Williams-conceived defense proving Manning right.

No upset.

No Colts center Jeff Saturday gracious in defeat. "Those guys played fantastic,'' said Saturday. "They deserved to be world champions.''

No Saints come marching home.

Think long and hard about what you do next, Goodell and Smith. What was here today -- a Super Bowl that meant something -- could be gone tomorrow.

Over money.

You want that to be your legacies?

Sincerely,

The non-millionaires and non-billionaires

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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