GEAUX SAINTS GEAUX!!!
This story comes from the NYPost:
The pictures that emerged as Sunday night bled and then blared into Monday morning, as reality replaced fantasy, as triumph trumped torture, were exactly what we always want to believe sports can do, what they can be.
Right there, in the French Quarter, that segment of New Orleans where the night is always stuffed with endless possibility, as the hour grew longer and the crowds grew larger, and louder, and livelier, you saw what America is supposed to look like: rich and poor, black and white, Catholic and Protestant, united in common cause and joint joy of the Saints' NFC Championship game win.
"I know every football fan whose team gets to the Super Bowl thinks they're having fun watching their team get there," Nicki Candies said over the phone yesterday afternoon, shouting to be heard over glee that hasn't yet subsided a full week later. "But I can promise you, this is our party, and we're going to celebrate this like nobody else ever has before."From that moment, America's Team was truly born. Forget the pre-fabricated notion of the Cowboys, or the cable creation of the Braves. The Saints will be America's home team Sunday in Super Bowl XLIV. They will be everyone's home team.
Candies was standing on the corner of Bourbon and Conti Streets, and it was at that precise moment when former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert emerged in a dress, honoring the longtime pledge of the late New Orleans broadcaster Buddy Diliberto to walk in drag down the heart of the city if the Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl.
Candies' family has held Saints tickets since 1967, and so they have endured every last indignity imaginable, from paper bags over their own heads to faux dreadlocks on Mike Ditka's. They are one story among hundreds of thousands of stories, born in a city that for 43 years has toiled faithfully behind a mostly loathsome football history, that for 41 months has tried to rebuild and reinvent itself after a most horrific collision with nature.
"The Saints are a lot like New Orleans," said Toni Trapani, another Saints season-ticket holder and lifelong New Orleans resident. "The team gets into your blood at a young age the same way the city does. This isn't a transient town like Dallas or Houston or Atlanta. Every one who lives here chooses to live here. It's not like your company sent you here. You're here because you want to be here."
Last Sunday, they were at the Superdome because anybody who ever has shed even an ounce of blood rooting for the Saints, even an ounce of tears helping to rebuild the city, wanted to be there. The Superdome isn't the kind of landmark building for outsiders that Lambeau Field is, or Wrigley Field, or Fenway Park, or the old Yankee Stadium was.
"But for us," Trapani said, "it's every bit as important to the city as St. Louis Cathedral. It's that kind of icon."
The Superdome invited the world of big-time sports to New Orleans once and for all: Super Bowls, Final Fours, BCS Championship games. For decades, those were the tastes the locals were allowed. LSU has won a couple of national titles (both of them clinched in the Dome, in fact), but they're in Baton Rouge, the college town an hour and a half west along I-10.
"We never thought this was possible," Trapani said.
"As Minnesota was driving at the end of the fourth quarter," Candies said of the NFC title game, "you could just sense that everyone was thinking the same thing: This is when the other shoe drops."
Only it wasn't a shoe at all, but a glass slipper, one that fits the city just right as they bid their team farewell this morning. Maybe none of the smart money is being placed on the Saints now, not with New Orleans' own Peyton Manning awaiting them in South Florida. Doesn't matter.
They may be the betting underdog, but they are also the home team. Even 849 miles away from home.
NEW ORLEANS has hosted its share of Super Bowls. Indianapolis is two years away from getting its first. Maybe the Saints and the Colts can become the first teams to really host a Big Game. Somehow, in what is now a 44-year tradition, that has never happened.
That's hard to believe. This, for instance, is the 10th time Miami has hosted the Big Game. The Dolphins have been in five Super Bowls; somehow, they've never qualified when it would've been a home game.
There only have been two times when it was even remotely close: In 1980, the Rams played the Steelers in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a short drive from Los Angeles but still a neutral game. In 1985, the 49ers played the Dolphins in a game played at Stanford Stadium -- and though Palo Alto is close by San Francisco, it isn't exactly in San Francisco.
One of these years, you figure this trend has to stop. Until then . . . maybe it's food for thought for Jets and Giants fans who'd like to see a Super Bowl in the new Meadowlands.