NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - I don't recall exactly how I got the job. Such was life for me in the six years between graduating from college and actually getting a full-time job covering sports. I paid my dues during the days and picked up whatever side jobs I could whenever possible. So when the opportunity came to be one of the guys that shot confetti outside of the Superdome for the re-opening, I jumped at the chance.
I didn't have a ticket. So this was my way into the game. Once the pre-game festivities were complete and my job was done, I moved inside. Without a seat, I just kept moving from section to section peeking in at each play of the game.
Finally, I settled in on a section to watch the defense stop Michael Vick on a third down scramble. Then came fourth down.
Somehow, where I was standing was perfectly aligned with the Falcons long snapper. So when the sea of red jerseys parted, it unfolded right in front me. Then came number 37. The image is still so vivid. The game is so fast but for this one play everything was in slow motion. Steve Gleason pursued closer and closer and closer then, "boom."
I can still feel the thumping sound of the blocked punt. The ball rolled, Curtis Deloatch scooped it up and pandemonium reigned.
But it's what happened next that has stuck me through the last decade. It was much more personal.
In the midst of the euphoria, I noticed a fan dancing and celebrating on the steps about eight or nine rows down from me. He was a black male, had to be in his 30s or 40s, totally decked out in black and gold. I don't know what came over me but the second I saw him, I walked to him, though it felt like I glided, and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked at me. Then we hugged for what felt like an eternity. The grip was tight. The connection was overwhelming. Neither one of us wanted to let go. I felt myself getting filled with tears but fought them off.
It was as if he was a best friend or a relative that I hadn't seen in years and we unexpectedly reunited for the first time. Except we hadn't seen each other before or since. I had no idea who he was and even now can't really describe what he looked like past the obvious physical description.
Eventually, the play was over and we went on our separate ways. The game ended. The Saints won and everyone rejoiced.
When thinking about that game, I always have trouble putting it into words. "Unbelievable" is too generic. "Emotional" is too weak. "Transcendent" may be the closest, but even that doesn't quite capture it.
For me, I'll always point to that moment. A deep hug and an emotional embrace between two perfect strangers connected by a moment in time that no one can accurately describe but could only feel its power.
This Monday won't be as emotional. But it will be nostalgic. Everybody will have their fondest memory of that night in the back of their mind.