We’re now within one week of Super Bowl, and my excitement level hasn’t settled down one bit. For the first time in their 43 year franchise history, the New Orleans Saints will be playing in THE big game. Had just about any other team been representing the NFC, I would have likely been neutral, and would be watching the game this Sunday as just a fan of football hoping for a good game. with the Saints playing for it all, it’s a different story altogether for me.
I have family who lived in Baton Rouge, and moved to New Orleans in the late 80s. During their time there, I’ve spent many days over many occasions exploring the city. Educating myself on Tobasco sauce, enjoying time along the Riverwalk, and developing a tasty obsession with beignets, among other things. Even a tour of the Superdome, back during the days of the “Aints”. The days where games were never sold out, and many of those who WERE in attendance sported paper bags over their heads. I have countless memories from over the years, and New Orleans had become a second home to me.
I watched in shock, pain, and anguish at all the news footage when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. A place I had grown to love was being devastated and was falling to pieces before my very eyes. The sigh of relief for me was knowing that my family fared well (all things considered) in the big picture. They live off the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and that area didn’t get nearly the level of damage that areas south of the lake did. They had some minor flooding in their backyard, trees down, power out, and some minor cosmetic damage to the house, but could have been so much worse.
I haven’t made it back to New Orleans since Katrina. Part of me is hesitant to do so, knowing that in many ways, it’s not the same city now that I last remember enjoying. However, the Big Easy has continued to rebuild itself over these recent years, and I would like to see the advancement and the progress so far. The city has fought so hard to overcome its losses over the last four years. The Saints have proven to be a truly heartwarming story, and an example of the passion that envelops all of New Orleans. I’m proud of New Orleans itself – when the Saints defeated Minnesota for the NFC Championship, there were celebrations all over the French Quarter (and surely all over the rest of the city), but not one report of riots, vandalism, or any sort of violent crime. They stayed classy, and that speaks volumes.
This Sunday, I will be tuned in with the most interest that I’ve had since the Rams/Patriots matchup in Super Bowl XXXVI back in 2002. I’m hoping this one turns out more in my favor than that one did. The Saints have a tall task ahead of them, and it will take every bit of heart, soul, and determination that they have to keep up with Indianapolis. Even if New Orleans comes up short in this game, I’m still so proud of them. What they’ve accomplished thus far is a true feel-good story. If they manage to walk out of Super Bowl XLIV as champions, believe me when I tell you that I’ll be celebrating well into the night, with a smile that could light up a new moon sky.
The Saints are coming.