Sports Give Cities Heart. Sports Give Cities Life. Sports Give Cities Hope.

He’s got that New Orleans thing crawling all over him, that good stuff, that We Are the Champions, to hell with the rest and I’ll just start over kind of attitude.” – Chris Rose, 1 Dead in the Attic

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Shutterstock

I was watching the Saints play the Patriots during one of last Sunday’s football games when I notice an interesting phenomenon occur during the last quarter.

Besides solidifying my mistrust in NFL referees as well as my disdain for the Patriots (the Bears are off the hook this week — though the Seahawks never will be), the last quarter of that game showed a marked difference between the kinds of people who are Saints fans and those who are not.

Though the last leg of the game ended when the Patriots scored a vital touchdown during the final few minutes, it began with the Saints ahead. As the camera panned Boston’s Gillette Stadium, it showed how the Patriots’ side of the stadium was nearly empty: many of the Boston-bred team’s fans had dispersed before the end of the game because, at that point, it looked as though the ole boys wouldn’t win.

On the other hand, the Saints fans remained throughout the entire game — from the very beginning, as the Pats led the scoreboard, to the end when the Pats scored the winning (cough) touchdown.

I believe that this display by Pats’ fans says less about them than it does about the kind of steadfast loyalty that supports the Saints fandom.

As someone who has spent the majority of her life in New Orleans, I know that my view on the matter may not be the most unbiased. After all, I have Tabasco sauce running thick and spicy-sweet through my veins — it’s inevitable when you call this place home.

However, I do know that for the people of New Orleans, the Saints are so much more than just a football team, and that is why we have stuck and will continue to stick by them regardless of whether they win or lose. We will stay until the very last seconds of any game, and even though our Black and Gold boys may sometimes lose a game or two, they will never lose our support.

(Though, to be honest, we’re all hoping for a 2014 Saints Super Bowl here and that Golden Tate won’t mess it up for us this year)

This is because the Saints are a symbol of resurrection and hope for a city that struggled to hoist its head above water when one of the worst natural disasters in American history threatened to drown it.

In the wake of Katrina — not Hurricane Katrina, simply Katrina — some suggested that government officials should not attempt to rebuild the city.

There were those who took the moralistic approach, claiming that New Orleans incurred the wrath of some unknown deity who sought to punish her for her rollicking, “let the good times roll” lifestyle. Usually, these were the same kind of people who would probably parade through the French Quarter during Mardi Gras and the annual Pride events, attacking our way of life and our open-mindedness. So, we took their opinions not with just a grain of salt but with an entire box of Zatarain’s seasoning.

There were those who believed that reconstructing New Orleans would be a waste of money, that this below-sea-level city with its weak levees would continue to fall victim to natural disaster. Their words hurt a bit more because we knew, in the back of our minds, that New Orleans’ location near the Gulf of Mexico did make it vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms that blew in from the surrounding oceans.

Whatever the reason, there was a healthy number of naysayers who believed that the city did not deserve a second chance at life. Just as during the Saints’ less illustrious days, when they were called the Aints and folks would go to their games with paper bags over their heads, there were onlookers who urged the city to sell the team that had been as important to its history as Louis Armstrong or red beans and rice.

We, citizens of New Orleans and loyal Saints fans, knew they were wrong.

In the winter of 2009, only a years after Katrina tore through the city and certainly early in the healing process, the Saints went to the Super Bowl with a new, revamped roster that included players like Drew Brees, whose family and charitable foundations have done so much for New Orleans. Brees joined the Saints after leaving the San Diego Chargers with a then debilitating injury in 2005, taking a chance on a team and a city that no one else seemed to have faith in.

Against all odds, this underdog team with its underdog players from an underdog city won the Super Bowl. We cancelled school for a couple of days. We held Second Lines in the streets. We cried. We raised our Abhita beers in praise of Bree-sus. And we partied. Because even when all else is bleak, we know how to party in New Orleans.

It’s difficult to believe that this year marked Katrina’s eighth anniversary, but New Orleans has never thrived this much. We’ve opened more restaurants and shops than ever. We even threw our own Fashion Week and have attracted numerous filmmakers who hope to use the city as a background for their features. We draw thousands of people, young and old alike, who want to lose themselves in the same kind of magic that entranced generations before them.

New Orleans, the city that many thought would drown in 2005 is now hurrying towards the finish line with a powerful breaststroke. Because we didn’t listen when others told us not to lose hope.

As for the Saints? Well, the Broncos may currently top NFL power rankings but they and every other team should watch out. We’re coming for y’all. TC mark

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