“You’re moving to New Orleans? Oh no, that place is a freaking cesspool man!”
Ten years ago, the New Orleans Saints played the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl. I was 16 years old, a freshman in high school, and I had a less than favorable outlook on life, to say the very least.
Football Days of the Past
The details these days are fairly fuzzy, but there wasn’t much keeping me going from day to day besides the game of football.
For 3 years in a row, we watched the Colts dominate the impressively dominate the NFL. Peyton Manning was smashing nearly every quarterback related record that could be found in a record book. He was the NFL MVP for two years in a row.
Yet, somehow the Colts managed to let a season in which they were basically expected to win the super bowl by nearly everyone in the football world, they let it slip away three years in a row.
Finally in 2006, the fourth straight year with a dream team, they brought the Lombardi trophy back to Indianapolis.
A couple more seasons went by, and the Colts blew a game in the playoffs to the Chargers two years in a row.
Finally, during the 7th year of the Colts regular season domination, finishing 14-2 in 2009, they were headed back to the Super Bowl. In the 7 seasons from 2003 to 2009, the Colts went 89-23 in the regular season…or 80%. That is an astounding number for professional football.
Anyways, I think it’s safe to say that all of us in the small midwestern city of Indianapolis felt we were nothing less than owed at least one more Super Bowl title before Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy and everyone else rode off into the sunset of retirement.
Here Come The Saints!
I promise we are going to talk about New Orleans.
In 2009, the Colts played the Saints in the Super Bowl. Drew Brees was (and still is) the quarterback of the Saints. More importantly he led the Purdue University football team to the Rose Bowl, the same school in which so many of my family, friends, and even myself took classes.
So, it would be obvious to say that we were always fans of Drew Brees. Except during this game of course.
Viewing Katrina from the Television
One thousand miles away in the cold bleak midwest, after three years of media coverage, Hurricane Katrina seemed to be little more than the butt of jokes for most people.
The fact that most sports and other media personalities were happy for the Saints winning the Super Bowl after Hurricane Katrina only made us annoyed and mock them even more.
This was, of course, purely out of ignorance. Most of us were incredibly immature, closed minded, and knew nothing of major disasters, or hardly anything outside of our town.
Let’s fast forward ten years….to the present day…
“The hurricane was the best thing that could have happened to this city…….this place is like the crotch of America.”
Yeah, someone I know said that to me in the New Orleans airport. Unfortunately, a lot of people from other places would probably think the same thing if they had never visited the city before.
But let’s not forget, oh….the thousands of people that died in the flooding. The hundreds of thousands of people that endured immense suffering as a result of this disaster.
There were even many thousands of people that suffered in the very airport in which we were sitting!
Perhaps if you have never truly been in a disaster area, you cannot possibly comprehend what such a situation is like.
While I’ve personally never been a victim of any storm, I’ve been in a good deal of disaster areas. Just a few months ago I survived the eyewall of catastrophic Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida.
I’ve been in ground zero of multiple EF4 and EF5 tornadoes shortly after the disaster has occured. Being in the immediate aftermath of a disaster zone is an incomparably far cry from seeing the devastation on TV.
Localized in New Orleans
So here I am now in New Orleans, for over 4 months already! That’s really not a big deal at all in itself.
The last Super Bowl I watched at all was in 2013, primarily because it was on the TVs at the Sunset Beach Bar in Sint Marteen…..one of the most magnificent places in the world by the way.
Football just has not been nearly as important in my life as it was when I was a teenager. There have jobs, projects, relationships, trips around the country and to the other side of the world, long hours worked, and long hours stuck unemployed.
So, I arrive at our new apartment in the heart of the Central Business District (it’s not ‘Downtown’) in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the first things I notice is this banner in the elevator lobby of the apartment…..
“Oh shit, the Saints” was basically my first thought.
To say that the city of New Orleans has a less than stellar reputation among a large portion of the country is well, a tremendous understatement.
“Yeah dude I wanna come to New Orleans so I can lay down in the Superdome and be a Katrina victim.” someone said to me just this past Christmas while I was visiting Indiana.
Toilet Bowl. Crotch of America. Cessbowl. America’s Biggest Dump.
All of these things I’ve heard too many times. Which reminded me….I had heard this many times about another place….
…Hey, What About America’s Most Unique, Coolest, Most Fun and Amazing City?
After 4 months, I can say I’ve seen a great a deal of this amazing city. I can just barely say I’m a local, and I absolutely cannot say I’m a native….but I can say I absolutely love New Orleans.
Come and walk around here. Ride the streetcar down Canal Street into City Park, which is 55% larger than Central Park in New York and designed by the same person. Chances are there will be a major festival taking place in the park if you are visiting on the weekend.
Ride a couple stops back and visit Parkway Bakery for an unbelievable Roast Beef PoBoy, and then walk over to Bayou Beer Garden and Wrong Iron Tavern.
Now ride the streetcar back into the CBD and roam around the French Quarter. Try not to go to Bourbon Street….but I’m sure you will.
Check out one of the more than a dozen live music bars on Frenchman Street playing jazz until the early morning hours. Take the St Charles Streetcar all the way around the ‘crescent’ of the city. Just try to keep up with all of the local shops, bars, and restaurants on the length of Magazine Street.
Be amazed at the architure of not only the French Quarter, but also the Garden District and the Audubon areas.
Be greeted with “Hey baby” by nearly everyone working at a counter or restaurant. Hear people yelling “Who Dat!” on practically every street corner during football season.
We could go on for pages and ages, but this is not by any means supposed to be a travel advertisement.
Loyalty to Your City
One of the biggest reasons people root for teams is because they feel some sort of connection with the team or what the team represents. If this wasn’t true, there would be no spectator sports at all.
At the very least, people would not spend millions of dollars on jerseys, hats, tickets and other memorabilia related to the game.
In many ways, especially for cities that are not New York or Los Angeles, a sports team is representation of the city itself at the national and even international level.
All of the teams I have consistently cared about were based either where I was born, where I spent most of my life, or where I wanted to go to college (but didn’t because I was a poor and slacking bastard).
However, nowhere in America, and perhaps no other city on Earth, cares about it’s sports team as much as the city of New Orleans cares about the Saints.
New Orleans & All Saints Day
For starters, the Saints logo is a Fleur De Lis. This is the French Immigrant symbol that is seen on basically every corner of every street in New Orleans. It’s on our trash cans, it’s on old buildings, it’s in logos of all kinds. Dinner entrees and speciality cocktails are named after it.
The Saints very inception as a franchise took place on November 1st; All Saints Day, which is highly observed in New Orleans. The team was announced with a a band playing “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
That’s a much better beginning story than a team packing up a MayFlower and arriving in your city at 2am….
Anyways, it only took a couple of weeks before the city had captivated my soul with it’s vibrant arichitrue, culture, and streetlife. The only places that even come to find as comparably interesting as New Orleans are Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
These cities are 20 times larger and 10,000 miles away….so it’s not really a sensible comparison.
One day I was out in Kenner and there was a Saints hoodie on a clothing rack for $19, originally $75….so I bought it….and so it began.
A couple weeks later, we decided to go to Frenchman Street for Halloween. We didn’t have costumes prepared, so we grabbed some face paint and I threw on a Saints shirt.
It turned out to be one of the best last minute ideas ever.
We were walking fairly quickly down Bourbon to get all the way to Frenchman Street, and people were yelling “WHO DAT!” nearly the entire way. The spirit of the city is unrivaled.
The San Antonio Saints?
Even months Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Superdome was severely damaged and was unable to host the New Orleans Saints football team. FEMA had taken over the team’s headquarters in Metairie for emergency response efforts.
This led to the team playing most of their ‘home’ games in San Antonio. While in San Antonio, local city officials and San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger attempted to keep the Saints permanently.
n October, Hardberger made national news when he told the Express-News that Benson had agreed to participate in talks at the end of the season that would aim at making his team “the San Antonio Saints.”
“I’m pretty comfortable in saying he wants to be here … permanently,” Hardberger said.
Lending credence to Hardberger’s stance, Benson expressed concern about whether the team could make money in post-Katrina New Orleans. He also made no attempt to hide his belief that the team could thrive in South Texas.
“You know how much I like San Antonio,” Benson told the Express-News.
But the players expressed mixed feelings about moving to San Antonio permanently.
“The way we left is not the way I want to leave New Orleans,” Horn said. “That’s the only reason I wouldn’t want to stay in Texas. The people here, they’re treating us phenomenally. We love San Antonio. We would love to play here. But the way we left Louisiana was sad for a lot of people.”
If when you come to New Orleans, you will surely need to visit at least a couple of the cities dozens of amazing museums.
In all of the museums that we have visited across the city, from the French Quarter to the 9th Ward, any mention of Katrina always includes a happy ending with Saints return to New Orleans.
The return of the team to the city brought so much hope and spirit for the recovery of New Orleans. Those of us that were not here could never understand it.
Some might say I’m a bandwagon fan, considering I happen to start liking them while they are at the top of the league. Should you give a damn if people think you’re a bandwagon fan? Does it even matter?
For one….this is the first time I’ve ever lived in the actual principal city of any team. I’ve always been way out in the the ‘burbs….I mean we can see the Superdome from our apartment.
More importantly (as previously discussed) teams are representative of the city. We live in New Orleans.
I love New Orleans. Despite all of its flaws, this might be my favorite city in the world….so far at least.
A whole bunch of people led me to believe that New Orleans was this miserable piece of shit sewer with no redeeming qualities.
Sure, the political corruption is undeniably bad. The sales taxes here are the highest in the country. The schools and basic infrastructure are the worst in the country. We even have boil water advisories from time to time….
Despite all of the clear drawbacks, the city is overwhelmingly captivating.
“Why do you think people come here on business and never want to leave?” – Wife’s coworker
There is absolutely no going back now. I have experienced my share of sports related disappointments over the years.
In fact, you would probably be hard pressed to find someone who has been more sports heartbroken than me over the years….
loss robbed game against the Rams, the following several days felt as if we were living in a completely different city.
The overwhelming presence of paralyzing sadness, depression, and heartbreak across the city was completely undeniable.
On Tuesday, I had mostly moved on from the idea of football and was much more concerned about getting back to my own pursuits in reading, studying, and exercise
Yet, when I went into Target I could again feel the sadness, even pressure behind my own eyes. It was if I was feeling everyone else’s emotions, and the prevailing gloom the had a stranglehold across southeast Louisiana.
This feeling continued to lurk while I was at the grocery store, but subsided significantly once I was back at home alone.
For over a week, the city seemed to be a shell of it’s former lively self. There wasn’t music blasting out of cars or crowds of locals drinking and taking to the streets. The sense of les bon temps rouler was completely absent.
The New Orleans faithful would not go quietly into sadness, however. For several days after what is widely considered the worst no-call in all of professional sports history, some of the most amazing memes, photos, cartoons, and signs came out from all over the area.
United in Misery
Lawyers filed lawsuits and eye care facilities offered free vision screenings for referees. Churches held special services with penalty flags for the congregate. Even the Governor of Louisiana himself wrote a strongly worded letter to the NFL Commissioner.
No city cares about it’s sports team the way New Orleans does. When people across the country were saying that the city of New Orleans should not be rebuilt, the Saints brought hope to everyone.
That resonated with me too much to ignore. Throughout my younger years, watching sports gave me hope through years of quiet hopelessness.
So…if the outside world is going to hold such an unfavorable view of New Orleans, I feel the least I can do is wear and spread the good world of The Who Dats around the country.
The unusual quiet and comparable dullness completely changed with Boycott Bowl. Multiple Second Line Parades took place, along with an all day and night outdoor concert on Fulton Street.
Only New Orleans could celebrate being robbed of the Super Bowl by throwing a parade and joyfully dancing in the streets, chanting, and having a great time.
Meanwhile in Boston? Patriots fans celebrated their 6th Super Bowl Victory by having a pathetic looking brawl in the streets…
I’ll let you decide where you would rather be.