After spending the summer assembling pre-Incan pottery shards and discovering ancient mummies protruding out of the ground in the deserts of southern Peru, my wife and i took a vacation across the South American continent to the Atlantic coast, scheduling ourselves a week and a half to explore Uruguay.
We touched down in Montevideo and promptly took a bus to the coastal villa of Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO world heritage site and an all-around incredible town. During the two-and-a-half hour bus ride there I mused about the Panthers. I'd been following training camp closely enough thanks to the widespread availability of wifi in even the smallest outposts of South America, so I was well enough acquainted with our prospects and the reports to realize that the Huddle's consensus was that we looked like a successful team, but that coaching is the number one thing that seems to worry us. A weak right guard can be masked or replaced, but embattled head coach Ron Rivera seems to be the key to the puzzle. His growth is magnified x1000 on the field; Good Ron and the Fist of Power can transform this team into machine and Bad Stoic Ron can just as easily leave us with a numbingly mediocre record.
So it was with the melancholy of remembering last season's blunders and the omnipresent bitter taste in the mouths of the Huddle's collective finest that I clambered out of the bus, grabbing my wife's luggage and my own as she carried our two-month-old daughter into the bus station, and I left her with the bags and forged into town on foot to see if I could locate a hotel.
Lo and behold, appearing as if an apparition, a ghost from the riverfront fog,
That's right, Hotel Rivera. I blinked. Was this destiny, or was I a fool? And, deciding only a fool would reject such an obvious sign from the heavens, I trod faithfully through the door, confident in the Holy Spirit of the Football Gods. This, if ever there was, was divine revelation.
I booked seven nights, at $76 per night. That's Greg Hardy's number. The total was $532. Before they printed the receipt I grabbed a coke from the cooler... two dollars. They added it on, totaling $534. What's 5 + 3 + 4? The number 12. Was the Pantheon of Football Deities revealing the oncoming breakout of wide receiver David Gettis?
As I returned to pick up my wife I cursed my skepticism. Have faith! I screamed inwardly, willing myself to reject the cold steel of emotionless analysis that threatened to strangle the glimpse of football's manifest destiny. And as I hailed a taxi I begged the heavens for a sign, for some sort of manifestation of the Will of the Football Gods, just a small sign to bolster my faith.
We went out for lunch, and, casually looking around, something caught my eye, and I froze, the blood pumping through my veins turning instantly to ice. The hair on the back of my head stood up, a cold sweat breaking out on my forehead. It was a fleur-de-lies, emblazoned in chipped, butt-fug-ugly paint upon a rusted metal carriage.
The New Orleans Saints.
As my stomach curdled in horror at what this could mean, a voice, powerful as the wind and a clap of thunder, striking me to me knees in terror, rang across the sky, a bolt of lightning straight to my heart, bidding me fear not. "I want to believe!" I screamed in silence, and in thunderous reply I heard in my innermost places the transcendent voice of what could only be described as a deity. "Have faith," rang He, "go into the darkestmost places and there you will find light."
And just as suddenly as the communion began it ended, and the rush of thunder was replaced by the rustle of the winter wind in the trees, the streets serene, Uruguayans drinking hot tea, my wife laughing with our daughter, as though this mighty, transcendent act of God had escaped them entirely. I trembled inadvertently, wiped the sweat from my brow, took a deep breath, and at last regained control of my senses.
Into the darkestmost places. Those words stuck with me.
On my last day in Colonia del Sacramento I decided to do some photography. I wandered, quite by chance, down into an old Portuguese bastion, entering through some portal in the ground, steps of stone perhaps not trod upon since the days of Pizarro, and found myself in a murky grotto, blackness penetrating in every direction, only the mirage of some grand circumstance sprawled before me providing a source of light, and as I broke into the open, I beheld the greatest of sights:
Like a scene from Myst, this view haunted me, resounded through me, a picture of the eye of God, serene and ineffable, and as I reflected on my powerlessness and ascended upon the antique stair I remembered the voice which bade me peace, and as I broke into light from the darkestmost place I turned to my right, taking in the old storefront in front of me, the glass reflecting the -
...the... what was that emblazoned in cracks and crevices on the window?
The fleur-de-lis, cracked and torn. The Saints, mortal enemy, despicable and worthy of destruction, destroyed, divined by the Gods of Football, revealed to me in the most unlikely of ways. Isn't that how most great prophecies come to fruition?
I smiled in the favor of the Football Gods and began my trek back to Hotel Rivera where all of this began. Fate was a funny thing, I realized, and as I pondered a 16-0 record I realized that 1 + 6 + 0 = 7... the exact day of the month I would return home to North Carolina.
The Football Lords work in mysterious ways.