A few weeks ago I could have written 3,000 words on “What it means to be a Saints fan” in less than 45 minutes. I could have. And it would have been enjoyable to read, complete with personal anecdotes about Aaron Brooks, a lovable losing culture and the lyrical flow of “Do You Know What it Means, To Miss New Orleans.” Then an EMO kicker punched the pigskin through the uprights, bringing this Saints fan to his knees, and eventually face down to the floor in joyous exultation, complete with girlie screams. Everything changed that quickly. (OK. Maybe it has been a four year process that began in 2006, but I’m going with the EMO kicker when I tell the story at age 70.)
The next day, in errand mode, sporting a Reggie Bush two-five, gold on black, I was cruising up the 405 from Santa Monica to the lowly San Fernando Valley. As traffic thickened and the gas gauge hit empty, I thought to myself: If someone offered me the choice of the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl, or a million dollars, I would pass on the million–I really would. If you’re saying right now that I wouldn’t, no way, huh-uh, not a chance–if you’ve got a million, test me.
As a proud member of Who Dat Nation with strong family roots and ties to south Louisiana, it was a little annoying to hear the “Favre handed it to you…” chatter, post-NFC crown–yet therein lies the beauty of being a Saints fan. Even approaching the top, you still don’t get any respect.
While things have changed, I have to roll my eyes and giggle when color commentators call the Saints “America’s Team.” I happily welcome all band-wagoners, and like to offer them a few creole or cajun recipes to enhance their overall temp-fan experience. I still laugh when people say, “Same old Saints,” or dip into their generic stash and bust out a New Orleans “Aints.” But most of all, I love how my 63-year-old father sounds as if he’s 21 again, and the franchise was just introduced to the league. It’s bigger than birthdays, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, combined. The bitter past makes the present as sweet as Louisiana sugar cane.
For Saints fans, and New Orleans residents, who are a special breed of Saints fans, Super Bowl XLIV is more than a game, it’s the culmination of hope, possessing a fresh expectation. Because these athletes, these kings among men have actively embraced the symbol of a city in need, the perspective of an entire sports culture has changed!
Laissez les bon temps rouler… and oh yeah: WHO DAT!?