Drink it all in, Who Dat Nation. Drink it all in.
Do not adjust your TV set. Do not pinch yourself. You have not entered “The Twilight Zone.” This is not a Stanley Kubrick movie. You are not dreaming. The football team in the “City That Care Forgot” with the fans that can’t forget to care have done the unthinkable. They’ve become Super Bowl Champions!!
And don’t let anyone say we deserved this because of Hurricane Katrina. We’ve deserved this moment for enduring the four decades before Sunday night’s huge victory.
Many sports prognosticators will say things like: “I’m just so happy for New Orleans, after all they’ve been through. It’s so great for them to have something to celebrate after Katrina.” When they do, simply shake your head and maybe roll your eyes for good measure. Just know that this Super Bowl isn’t even close to making up for what Katrina took, but it is more than enough to satiate 44 years of “Wait ‘til next year.”
This Super Bowl is for the fans who were there Sept. 17, 1967, when John Gilliam returned the first kickoff in Saints history for a 94-yard touchdown. This is for the fans who saw Tom Dempsey with half a foot boot a (still standing!) NFL record 63-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions in 1970. This is for the fans that had to wait more than 20 years before their team posted a single winning season.
It’s for the fans who cheered for Archie Manning, but despaired in the fact that he’d be part of the teams that never had a winning record. The Who Dats that saw their team defy all logic and take a kicker, Russell Erxleben, in the first round of the 1979 NFL Draft. That is who this Super Bowl victory is for.
It’s for the fans who wore paper bags emblazoned with “Aints” on their heads, but came to the next game anyway: This Super Bowl is for them.
It is for the Dome Patrol years. To know your team has a Super Bowl-caliber defense, but never had anything in the way of an offense. Before the Saints changed the culture, I’d hear nonstop about the infamous Dome Patrol – how if they just had even a semblance of offense, we would’ve won a Super Bowl years ago.
Our defense isn’t as good as it was then, but for the key turning point in this Super Bowl win to be an interception return touchdown, there’s clearly underlying karma there. And don’t think for a second that after allowing 10 first-quarter points, allowing only seven points afterward isn’t a defensive showing that escapes your notice, either.
All the years of waiting and yearning, like a farmer tilling a supposedly barren field for which all his neighbors mocked him, now the harvest has arrived. The Saints gave the fans what they deserved. Not because they endured through one of the greatest natural disasters in American history. That’s nothing new for New Orleans. We endure. We survive. But this – the last one standing out of 32. This was never supposed to happen.
Yet it has. And even if it takes another 44 years before it happens again, this moment, this pristine, surreal moment, will stand as a defining moment in New Orleans history. And for the first time, that phrase the NFL bone-headedly tried to claim has literal connotations that the fans can shout with jubilation:
Who Dat! Who Dat! Who dat say they gonna beat dem Saints?!