NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - I write this column not as a sports reporter but as a lifelong New Orleanian. And the conflicting feeling I get when I think of the city I call home.
The unthinkable, senseless and tragic slaying of Will Smith only drives this emotion in even further.
The shocking and almost casual contradiction we, New Orleanians, live with on a daily and even hourly basis is truly mind-boggling.
How can we be so wonderful and so terrible at the same time? How can we co-exist in the contradictory prism that celebrates life like no other and yet has a complete disregard for human life so often?
And the bad traits aren't just isolated to the 'bad parts' of town with the 'bad people.'
The Will Smith tragedy is very real, harsh and profoundly sad proof of that.
By all accounts, Smith was having a true New Orleans kind of day. A free festival with perfect weather with his family, then dinner at one of our great restaurants with friends and former teammate. I have no doubt Smith believed it was the kind of day that made him appreciate the uniqueness of this city. We, New Orleanians, know THAT feeling when we get it.
But on his drive home, through the Lower Garden District, the other side of that uniqueness reared its ugly and tragic head.
A fender bender turned deadly. A FENDER BENDER! A heated argument between two drivers should have ended at that. Instead, Smith's three children are now without a father. Just like that. A complete 180 of emotions in a matter of minutes. Words can't express the sorrow that I feel for his wife and kids.
I can recall a conversation with a former colleague of mine years ago who was having trouble understanding New Orleans. I told him, in a half-joking tone, that New Orleans is the kind of place where you can have one of the funnest days of your life but then get shot on the way home. At the time I was trying to best explain the double-life New Orleans leads.
Chills came down my spine when I realized that is EXACTLY what happened to Will Smith.
I, like many of you, am extremely proud of my NOLA roots. I get defensive when outsiders talk bad about my city. But I'm not naive of our problems. What New Orleans does well, we do better than anyone. What New Orleans does bad, we do worse than anyone.
Those contradictory worlds blend together so easily in New Orleans and too many times that existence leads to tragedy.
Will Smith is hard proof of that.