"Y'all bring us home, to the Super Bowl," a short, shirtless man sitting on a cot inside the Astrodome told Horn on Saturday. "Don't leave us now."
"Don't worry, we're gonna represent Louisiana," Horn replied. "We're gonna be back as soon as we can, and that's real."
A day later McAllister walked along I-10. Piles of garbage and ratty blankets lay strewn across the shoulder of the highway. A group of evacuees was being helped down from an Army Humvee, near a military helicopter that had landed on the freeway. A young man in a Yankees cap helped armed soldiers load his ailing grandfather onto a stretcher. He turned to McAllister and asked, "Did y'all win that game against the Raiders?"
McAllister smiled as he talked football for a minute, but he had no illusions that the Saints could play some divine role as healers. He'd heard reports from evacuees of rapes at an elementary school shelter in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, and of dead bodies left unattended throughout the city.
At one point he looked down from the interstate and watched a pair of middle-aged women repel a rescue boat, instead choosing to wade through the chest-high water halfway around the block to a small aluminum craft of their own. "We've got our own private boat," one explained before beginning the 500-yard journey. Alas, when they reached the vessel, they found it padlocked to a fence.
As they started back through the water, a large television set floated by. One of the women looked up at the freeway and recognized the man in the red vest. "That's Deuce McAllister," she said.
Her companion's reply: "I don't give a damn who that is."
For an archive of Michael Silver's Open Mike columns, go to SI.com/silver.