Rouses Everyday - September & October - page 11

tHe sAINts
you’ve got to do is wear the colors of pride, the Black & Gold, and
walk these city streets that might have looked so mean the night
before, where no one said hello
and no one offered a hand of
help, where maybe no one ever
saw you.
But on Sunday, draped in those
colors, you are part of the tribe,
part of the city; we are friends,
family, community.
We are one.
The story is so often told, it’s almost cliché. How the Superdome on
Game Day is the great leveler of status, bearing and privilege. How
young and old, rich and poor, black and white, men and women,
straights and gays are all of one piece, one place.
Hands are slapped, hugs are shared, goodwill spreads through the
crowd like a virus of hope. Even the most implausible of unions,
Democrats and Republicans come together for the shared purpose
of cheering on their team.
That there can only be guided by the hands of providence, the hands
of fate. Heck, it takes the hand of God to pull off a trick like that.
It’s kinda sorta always been this way; Saints fans have been the gold
standard of support since the team was born almost 50 years ago;
almost every game of every season has sold out.
For decades, it seemed a lark, a fluke, hard-headed denial. People
kept filling the stadium intent on proving true the definition of
insanity: Performing the same act over and over, expecting a
different result every time.
But the blind faith and unconditional trust eventually paid off. The
Saints finally got good. The Saints finally paid off. The Saints finally
earned this city’s collective unwavering devotion by starting to win.
A long time coming, it was the start of the century
when the team suddenly became respectable, a force to
reckon with, perennial contenders. And then.
And then Katrina happened. And along with everybody
else, the Saints left town.
It was a strickening moment in the team’s history, in the
city’s history. No game day Sunday in the Superdome.
Rumors of the team staying away, relocating, becoming
an entirely new entity with entirely new fans.
It was unfathomable. Unimaginable. Impossible!
And then.
And then the unthinkable, the amazing, the almost
miracle of renewal and rebirth. Sure, they won the
Super Bowl in 2010, but the christening moment, the
crucible of change, the defining moment in the team’s
history, came on that Monday night back in 2006, 13
months after the storm.
Everybody knows the story by now. Heck, its legend has
bloomed in the same way asWoodstock; if everybody who
said they were there that night was actually there, then the
Superdome held a half-million people that night.
But can you blame anyone for not wanting to have connected to
that night, that game, that moment?
September 25
of that year,
after much speculation, doubt,
confusion, rancor and general
ill will, the Saints had finally
come home. The Superdome
opened that night. And in the
Quarter, the play etched not
only in the history of the team,
but of the city, occurred.
On 4
down, deep in their own territory, the Atlanta Falcons
lined up to punt. The snap was perfect, but somewhere along the
offensive line, execution broke down. A flash of white jersey came
through the middle. The player hurled himself into the air.
And you know the rest of the story. Blocked punt. Touchdown.
Victory against all odds. Celebration. Pandemonium.
The walls came tumbling down, the baby Jesus wept, everybody
loved one another.
And nothing has ever been the same in New Orleans. Not as far as
the Saints go. Not as far as anyone goes.
That play, that moment, ignited an inexorable march of pride,
defiance, determination. Yes, we would have rebuilt anyway, but
rebuild we did with a new pride, energy and sense of destiny.
Those who had said let this city wash away, let the sea reclaim this
backwater wasteland, were silenced that night, are silenced still.
And born of that moment, a humble, hard-working man would come
to embody the moral center of this city. Steve Gleason. Who wore
jersey number 37 in near anonymity, even with his name printed on
the back, just another body in the scrum, a cog in the machine —
became a legend. A guiding light. A role model. A hero.
"When you play for the Saints, you feel like you're
playing for the community, the whole region, the
Who Dat Nation."
—Bobby Hebert, former quarterback and WWL Radio Sports Talk host
Longtime sports personality Buddy Diliberto.
1...,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,...60
Powered by FlippingBook