“Who dat, say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” It is the proverbial rallying cry of New Orleans Saints fans. And as the team prepares for its first Super Bowl appearance since its inception in 1966, the answer would appear to be their opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts seemed to be the better team all year, with a dominant offense and a defense that is allowing 19.2 points per game, eighth fewest in the NFL. While the Saints blew opponent after opponent out this season until a three game losing skid at the end of the year, I have to believe that Indy is a clear-cut favorite.
But when the game kicks off next Sunday night, you can be sure I am cheering for the underdogs. If there was ever a team that needed a Super Bowl win, it would have to be the Saints. If there was ever a city that needed a Super Bowl win, it would be New Orleans. After all they have been through, after the years of suffering through losing season after losing season, making the playoffs only seven of their 43 years in the NFL. And then came the hurricane.
When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 and flooded New Orleans and ripped apart the Superdome, the Saints played no games in their hometown, in front of their own fans, on their own turf, or use their own locker room. How could they? Their home stadium had a gaping hole in the roof and was being used to house residents and volunteers. And that was the least of their worries. The city was devastated, struggling to recover from one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. They waited ten days for government help to arrive. The citizens struggled through floodwaters, looting, and the slow, painful process of rebuilding a hub of American culture.
But when the Saints returned to New Orleans on September 25, 2006, the Superdome was packed, sold-out, all 70,003 seats. And this was just one year after many were wondering if the city would ever recover from Katrina. But recover they did, screaming and cheering the Saints on, willing them to victory over the Atlanta Falcons. And in many ways, the team that year personified New Orleans: hard-working, perseverant, full of charisma and attitude and passion. Nobody would stop the Saints that evening, and nobody was going to stop the city. They would recover, and they would be back.
The Saints made the playoffs that year, showing the world what they were capable of. But they failed to make it to the Super Bowl. And then in 2007 and 2008, they failed to make it to the postseason. But 2009 was different. This was a team on a mission. They had a goal and they are one game away from reaching that goal: a Super Bowl victory to share with their fans. They are just 60 minutes of football away from reaching immortality. They deserve it. New Orleans deserves it.
The Saints have slowly but surely come from the anonymity of an NFL expansion team and blossomed into a force to be reckoned with. They have been knocked down and told they couldn’t get back up, but they have defied those odds. And so has New Orleans. They were once great, knocked down, but surely they have risen back up, recovering from their devastation, once again becoming the heart of culture in America. They have struggled, scrapped their way through rough times but are making their way back to the top. The Saints represent that notion. And as they face the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, I am behind them 100%, just as New Orleans is. They deserve it.
“Who dat, say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” I’m hoping nobody.