First truth: I’ve never really been a fan of professional football. Growing up, I relished Saturday’s college football games and typically napped during the Sunday ones. I have stood by my Tigers and Longhorns, respectively, through the years, through good seasons and bad, but have never really thrown more than a passing thought to the NFC or AFC, and like many others, really only watch the Superbowl for the commercials. I have never seen the fuss over Brett Favre, am annoyed by the stories of Tony Romo’s rotating blonde singer girlfriends, and laugh at my boyfriend’s undying allegiance and frustrations with his Browns.
But boy do I love those Saints right now.
For those of you that know a little about me, it makes sense that if I were to root for any NFL team, it would be the Saints. Born in Louisiana, it didn’t matter that I moved to Texas at five, and then Ohio at the age of seven – there was no way I was going to become a Bengals fan. As much of my family are die-hard LSU fans, many are die-hard Saints fans, even when they were the Aints. But for me, a mostly non-fan of the NFL, my Saints’ fandom was sparse, more of a check-in here and there to make sure they were still out there, still kicking. Besides, they don’t really show Saints games in Ohio.
But today, the Saints are playing in the Superbowl. And I am a fan. I am even throwing a party, my first Superbowl party ever, complete with gumbo and king cake. Last year, I fell asleep on the couch during the big game. This year, I will be rooting until the very last seconds, because those Saints have a way of coming back when you least expect it.
Just like the people of New Orleans have since Katrina.
I wasn’t in Louisiana for Katrina, and fortunately, most of my family escaped unscathed, except for some power outages, downed trees, a flooded apartment and drowned car. My family was all safe. But all these years later, not just post-Katrina, but years and years after I left the state that I called home, I still get a tingly feeling thinking about how a football team has brought back the spirit to a city that was drowning, a city that was crying out for help, for someone to save them.
And the Saints came marching in.
When I see my family rallying around this team, when I see the packages on ESPN with Bourbon St. revelers, jazz in the background, Harry Connick Jr. and other NOLA natives choking up over this special moment, it hits me right smack in the middle of my heart. It’s like they say in the movies, with a twist: you can take the girl out of Cajun country, but you can’t take the Cajun out of the girl.
The Saints may win today, and they may lose. Tomorrow, my thoughts may already be on baseball’s spring training and my Cubbies. But for today, I am enthralled by the spirit of the Saints, and the spirit of the people that love them for bringing life back into their city.
Update: The Saints win their first Superbowl!! Who dat!!