COLUMNS

Community rallied around New Orleans Saints

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @ weeklycitizen.com.

At last, the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl champions, believe it or not. Yes, indeed. No foolin’.

It’s been a long time coming – 43 years to be precise – for the longtime doormats, laughingstocks or punchlines – whichever you fancy – of the NFL.

Most of those years, the Saints bumbled their way through losing seasons. Sure, there were a few winning seasons sprinkled in along the way, and even a few playoff appearances. But, when it was all said and done, the Saints always ended up bowing out and watching other teams advance to the Super Bowl.

This year, things were different.

The Saints played like a team destined for greatness this year. And their loyal fans, colloquially known as the Who Dat Nation, have been behind them through it all – through thick and thin.

Many Saints fans have suffered through some downright pathetic times. The losing years mounted after the team first took the field in 1967. The culture evolved into fans wearing bags over their heads at games. Longtime Saints quarterback Archie Manning has said he once told his wife to stop bringing their sons to games so they wouldn’t have to witness fans booing him.

Those days are gone now. The Saints have entered a new era after enjoying a storybook season.

“Amen! After 43 years, our prayers are answered,” trumpeted a newspaper, a day after the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV.

Other newspapers around the area splashed bold headlines across front pages, like “Believe it!” and “Long time coming.”

The last few years have certainly been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for the Saints organization and their fans. It has been a long, hard climb to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in late 2005.

The Saints were forced to be a nomadic team after the storm, playing home games in Baton Rouge and San Antonio.

As the Saints battled through adversity, they became an inspiration to those in the Gulf Coast region who also faced a long road to recovery.

Who can forget the magical atmosphere when the Saints marched onto the Superdome field once again, just a year after Katrina?

After back-to-back mediocre seasons where the team went 7-9 and 8-8, who would have thought the Saints would go 13-3 and win the Super Bowl this season?

The Saints have given us hope. If they can reach their goal of winning a championship, despite the odds stacked against them, maybe we can reach our goals, too.

The Saints have been more than just a football team to their fans.

The team and their fans can relate to each other. Fans can see something of themselves in the Saints.

Sunday is a day I know I’ll never forget. It was as if the day was a spontaneous holiday, as my family and friends gathered around the television to share the special night.

After the game ended and the Saints hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, team owner Tom Benson said, “Louisiana, by way of New Orleans is back. And it shows the whole world.”

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

This year, we can say it loud and proud: nobody.