If Americans love football, New Orleanians worship their Saints.
Yes, there are some fans locally and abroad who hopped on the bandwagon more recently. The Saints, as most football fans know, weren’t always the team they are today. Many New Orleanians stayed loyal, but not without incorporating that local satirical spirit.
During those dark days, diehard fans would attend games with paper bags covering their faces and others, sometimes out of heartbreak, referred to the home team as the Aints.
After Hurricane Katrina, when the team stayed in New Orleans, the amazing 2006 season united the city and gave its people a whole lot of hope.
I remember signs throughout Louisiana that read “Bless You Boys” — a perfect depiction of the welcome return to normalcy that provided such a service to Louisiana’s people.
The Saints may not have won the Super Bowl that year, but victory came soon after. I had the wonderful experience of being in New Orleans the night the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. I will do my best to describe this indescribable joie de vivre.
First, let me start off by saying it was Mardi Gras season, so locals were ready to party. After 43 years of losing gracefully, the Saints really needed a win. The city needed a win.
It was an emotional moment. Some lifelong fans who survived the losing streaks, and Katrina, were finally seeing their team, their home, victorious. This emotion was handled in many ways.
There was a small Saints “Baby Boom” nine months later. And, people who left the house fled to the French Quarter. I was Uptown and getting a cab was almost impossible. Traffic going into downtown resembled the line of cars at the end of the movie Field of Dreams.
When I finally arrived in the French Quarter, there were Second Lines to When the Saints Go Marching In, people shouting Who Dat and many costumes playing on the highly anticipated win. I have a photo somewhere with a man dressed as a Flying Pig.
In short, it was Fat Tuesday on Super Bowl Sunday.
People are still serious about their Saints. I recently attended the New Orleans vs. Washington game, September 9. I saw Super Fans wearing Championship Ring hats and playing up the religious satire that comes with a team called the Saints in a Catholic town. There were Black and Gold Popes, Clergy and loyal disciples of Drew Breesus. And, in New Orleans tradition, brass instruments were played and jambalaya was had.
While the game did end in a loss for the Saints, New Orleans has not lost the faith. Cheers to a good season and can I get a Who Dat?