IBJOpinion

PARENT: Why I'm rooting for the Saints in the land of Blue

Tawn Parent
February 3, 2010
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Strangers are giving me dirty looks, co-workers are granting me a wide berth, and my dad may never speak to me again. It might have something to do with the New Orleans Saints button on my collar.

If Indianapolis were playing any other team in the Super Bowl, I swear I’d be for the Colts. Not because I care about football, but because I’m in favor of anything that brings success and prestige to my hometown.

But I spent a few years in New Orleans. It’s a city that gets into your blood. So you may leave the Crescent City behind, but its spirit sticks with you.

That spirit kicked into high gear when I saw the Saints overcome the Minnesota Vikings to seal their first-ever NFC championship in the Superdome. The place mattered.

My office window in New Orleans looked out on the Superdome, so I spent a fair amount of time gazing at the structure as I waited for inspiration to strike. And I experienced the famous roar of the Superdome crowds as I marched through the stadium as part of the Endymion Mardi Gras parade every winter.

A few years later, it was on a highway ramp near the Superdome that my friend Keith, a reporter for The Times-Picayune, was rescued from the rising floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina. Of course, the Superdome also became a shelter, a scene of death, a sea of suffering.

A big chunk of its roof was torn off. It wasn’t clear that the building could be repaired. The Saints packed up their helmets and headed to San Antonio. It wasn’t clear that they’d come back.

But, in 2006, they did. And New Orleanians repaid the favor by helping  the team sell out its season tickets for the first time ever. The Saints made it all the way to the NFC championship that season.

The city has always loved its Saints, even when they were down-and-out, which was most of the time that I lived there. Back then, some fans still wore paper bags on their heads, and my colleagues routinely moaned about the latest on-field embarrassment of “the Ain’ts.” Still, there was an undercurrent of loyalty: The Saints may be screw-ups, but they’re our screw-ups.

Even the emblem on the Saints uniforms—the French royal symbol that has been the city’s insignia for nearly 300 years—has fundamental importance for locals.

“[The Saints] wear our fleur-de-lis,” Ian McNulty, a New Orleans writer, told ESPN.com. “That’s a deep symbol of this city and its legacy. It’s not a made-up animal character.”

Since Katrina, the fleur-de-lis has sprouted everywhere in New Orleans as a badge of community solidarity. And passion for the Saints has flowered as well. The team’s success in its first season back in the Superdome—when New Orleans was still missing half of its people, storefronts stood empty and mail often didn’t come—gave the city hope. Hope that it, too, might come back.

Incredibly, the city is mostly back, just four years after surviving the costliest natural disaster in our nation’s history. Big challenges remain, but employment is at 87 percent of pre-Katrina levels, 70 percent of schools have reopened, and wherever people live, the mail comes.  

Just before the playoff game on Jan. 24, Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay wrote, “If the Saints win this weekend, we expect the Louisiana Superdome to levitate off the ground, stop at Parkway Bakery & Tavern for a roast beef po’ boy and fly straight to Miami for the Super Bowl.”

I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened. What I would have given to be there celebrating that night with my friend Erika, a teacher and mom of three, whose family lost everything in the storm and evacuated to Houston, only to claw their way back to New Orleans like so many others.

Her husband and son spend many an autumn Sunday in the Superdome now. Most of the other people in the stands are regular folks, too, not corporate executives, who are in short supply in New Orleans. My friends sit side-by-side with fans who also have heartbreaking stories of loss, and brave stories of recovery. Week after week, they cheer on their team of castoffs and underdogs, who have so much in common with the city itself.

Chris Rose, a Times-Picayune columnist, said, “Damn it, we’re tired of feeling like losers.”

The Saints are helping New Orleanians feel differently, like maybe the city doesn’t have to settle for getting back to where it was in 2005, like maybe the city could become even better. Having their team make it to the Super Bowl is a testament to how far New Orleans has come, and a sign of how far it could still go.

That’s something I just have to cheer about.

So I’m going to spend next Sunday evening at Papa Roux’s Gumbo Bowl party on the east side. I’ll be screaming “Geaux Saints!” with other folks who know that, for New Orleans, this game is about much more than football.

As for the Colts, I wish them luck—next year. But this year, somebody else needs this win even more.•
_____

Parent is associate editor of IBJ. She previously was a reporter and associate editor at New Orleans CityBusiness.

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  • Bravo
    Great article, Tawn! This shows that you don't have to be born in N.O. to have it running through your veins. As for Joyce, small minded people like yourself can never understand that it's not just about a football game - it's so much more. We neither want nor need your pity.
  • who dat
    Dear Joyce, you sound like a sore loser.
    We don't ask for pity and we don't need pity. There is no other place like New Orleans in this country. The history, culture, tradition and PASSION run strong here and not many can break it. I have nothing against Houston been there many, many times but in no way does it compare to New Orleans.
    Katrina was a horrible,horrific tragedy and the response that we received from our government was not done in a timely manner and was quite frankly unacceptable.
    I'm a fourth generation New Orleanian and proud of it. You will never understand New Orleans or our deep roots but that is ok. You have the right to your opinion.
    Go Saints, they deserve it and so does New Orleans!Great Article!
    • Go Colts
      I live in the houston, tx area. I am sick of all of the poor me, poor us, poor new orleans, give me, give me give me attitudes. Many people in our country have suffered hard times. Most people pick up and move forward. NOLA still expects everyone to pity them. I am tierd of it and so sorry they are in the super bowl. A hurricane--by the was Ike was MUCH greater--is not a reason the cheer for the saints or to pity NOLA.
    • oh, please!
      I applaud the author. This city has no idea of what a fan really is. I remember not too many years ago that the games were blacked out because there was no fan support. I also remember when they boo'd Peyton every time he stepped onto the field...this is NOT a fan. A fan, supports do or die(saints fans) sit out in the freezing cold year after year (packer fans). We, no, MOST Indy fans are fair-weather and they are fans because we are doing well. Remember that little team called Indiana Pacers....there was a movie named after the Hoosier because we are such a basketball state... if we are so die hard then why aren't we selling out those games, as well. And to the comment of your city struggling, I think we need to take a look at the two new infrastructures in this city, the airport and a stadium which both cost multi-millions and think either we aren't doing as bad as you think or we need to put our money elsewhere to help our city recover...financially!
      Hats off to you author for seeing the bigger picture, I think it would be nice to have an underdog win the Superbowl for once. Plus, she lived there once, that makes it as much "her team" as the Colts are! GO SAINTS!!!
    • We are a sports city
      When you think of New Orleans you think of Mardi Gras but what happens the rest of the year? Never been but I get the impression the French heritage is promoted there. When you think of Indianapolis you think of 500 and basketball. Indy has no public heritage. I lived in Indy for 15 years. Worked at the IMA (that is the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and was active with community theater. The world does not know of this culture because we are a sports city and state. No wonder that the Saints are getting the attention. History and arts bring business to a city also. New Orleans has proven that. Indy has culture also. It would be nice promote that. Maybe next year you feel better rooting for the Colts.
    • Who Dat Indeed!
      New Orleans is a special, magical place... and we love passionate people. If you don't understand, then you're not one of us and never will be. Hot and spicy! Not bland and chokin' on the white bread. Go SAINTS, WHO DAT and all dat!
    • Move Back if you liked it that much!
      Although I have a great deal of empathy for those that were adversely affected by Katrina, I can't buy this retoric!!! If you aren't a Colts fan, you aren't an Indianapolis business supporter and you need to move back to New Orleans. Why did you move here? For a job, right? I guess the market there couldn't support your skill set there? Listen, you can cry all you want about New Orleans, but the local and state governments didn't do a thing to prepare the city for the disaster it suffered and all they could do was blame someone else for their plight. Might want to look in the mirror sometime and figure out who was "really to blame"........ Go COLTS!!!!
    • Understandable But Not Acceptable
      I agree, the author explains her position well. However, what about our City and our State? It has not been exactly roses for our economy and, in case you have not noticed, morale and optimism on a quick recovery are pretty low. I have been to New Orleans (before & after Katrina). Yes, it is a different place afterward (actually much cleaner). They have had a lot of money pumped into that economy to insure their future success. Based on my observation, they will be fine. I am not being insensitive to their plight, but will undoubtedly root for our team, our fans and our State. Evidently the author has no idea what being a fan is all about - I could never imagine cheering AGAINST my team for any reason. She will no doubt give up her season tickets after the next losing season.
    • Who Dat?
      Very well written story....don't worry you won't be the only fan that didn't jump on the Colts bandwagon in Indy. Go Saints Go...I will be wearing my Brees jersey with Mardi Gras beads and mask rooting for them all the way! Nola.com radio has great music to listen to all the week...over 80 artist have sent in music dedicated to NO and the Saints!
    • Winners and More
      Valid and beautiful justification. Your piece makes the picture fuller, encompassing, and mighty human.
    • Nice Article
      For your reading pleasure.

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