Grrr! America's Team

America's Team? | Backstage With The Rolling Stones | Your Grrrs

Exploiting Katrina

Should the New Orleans Saints (search) be America's football team?

I have extremely mixed feelings about that. On one hand, the Saints' victory over the Carolina Panthers on the first Sunday of the NFL season was uplifting and inspirational for the people in their hometown and for the country in general.

It's nice to see professional athletes come together and win one for the fans when the fans really need it.

The obvious Grrr! here is that these are grown men who get paid exorbitant amounts of money to win every game for their fans, and the Saints haven't really been good at delivering on that premise even in the best of times. These, needless to say, are the worst of times for the people of New Orleans, and presumably for the Saints players, so to have them even show up for the game is remarkable — never mind winning.

On the other hand, the notion that the New Orleans Saints should be America's team is beyond me. Yes, it's been a terrible state of affairs down in the Big Easy, but does that mean we should root any harder for a professional football team, part of one of the biggest commercial enterprises in the world?

Sept. 11, anyone?

I didn't see any tears flowing when the New York Yankees (search) lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series just a little more than a month after the World Trade Center attacks. I didn't hear anything about the Washington Redskins being America's team after the Pentagon was attacked, either.

Come to think of it, there wasn't any talk of the New York Giants or Jets being "America's Team" after that tragic event. In fact, when the New England Patriots (search) won the Super Bowl that year, all we heard was how great it was that a team called the "Patriots" would win a championship against the backdrop of the War on Terror.


To be even more jaded than I already am, I find the whole inspirational story of the Saints as nothing more than headline-grabbing fodder for ESPN, newspaper sports sections and Internet sports sites.

I'm not saying that sports aren't a good distraction from the trials and tribulations of a tragedy, or that they don't offer a sense of relief for victims of the hurricane. Two recent movies dealt with prominent sports figures who emerged after the Great Depression.

"Seabiscuit" featured an undersized thoroughbred racehorse, an underdog that kept beating the bigger horses. The colt was the darling of the little guy who lost it all in the stock market. And "Cinderella Man," starring Russell Crowe (search), was essentially "Seabiscuit" in a boxing ring.

After two weeks of wall-to-wall coverage on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath — after practically every story that can be told has been told by every reporter, anchor and writer in the country — I guess it's time now for the sports reporters to have their say.

Look, I don't mean to suggest that what happened with Katrina isn't tragic. I've written several columns to that affect. What Grrrs me is the constant searching for stories by media outlets, so they latch on to sports.

The proliferation of media sort of resembles those people in your family who have to make everything about themselves. You know ... the ones who never watched ABC News, but when Peter Jennings died he was their "favorite newsman." Or the one who hasn't spoken to her friend from New Orleans for 25 years, but all of a sudden, said friend is topic No. 1 of recent conversations. Or the person who, after he asks you how you are doing and you respond with something about having a headache or it being crazy busy at work, responds with his own migraine woes or gives you a laundry list of projects his boss laid on him.

Sadly, when the stories are as tragic as Katrina, many people need to make it about them.

The Rolling Stones' Chuck Leavell

The Real Deal: Straka Goes Behind the Scenes With the Rolling Stones

Now that my embargo on my behind-the-scenes piece with Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell is over, you can click the video link above to see the story.

An embargo in the world of TV usually means another network or show has an exclusive until a certain date. In this case, I gave my word that my piece wouldn't run until after Matt Lauer's on "Dateline."

Anyway, Leavell, whose new CD "Southscape" is on music shelves and sites now, was kind enough to bring FOX News and The Real Deal backstage to experience a little of what it is like to be part of the biggest rock band in the world.

You'll see the stage before the show, hear a little of Leavell's talent — and what Keith Richards (search) and the rest of the band have to say about him — go into the dressing room and wardrobe area and hear a little bit of the Stones' new tune "Back Of My Hand," which is one of the best bluesy rock-and-roll songs to come out in years.

Once again the Grrr! Column says thanks to Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Chuck Leavell, along with publicists Fran Curtis and Dan Beeson, for an experience that really did humble me.

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Mike Straka is the director of operations and special projects for, and covers entertainment and features on the Sunday program "FOX Magazine." He also writes the biweekly Grrr! Column and hosts "The Real Deal" video segments on