It’s no secret that the New Orleans Saints are a sacred lifeline of the city as a whole. After Hurricane Katrina, both the city and franchise rebuilt, revisited old ways, and rethought a new plan for success and renewal. That first home game in the Superdome in fall 2006 was one of the most magical moments in both Saints and New Orleans’ history.
On Sundays, game days—and really any day—black and gold jerseys, hats, car stickers, and every type of merchandise imaginable in between, are donned with both team and city pride. During Saints season, we live from Sunday to Sunday, discuss past and upcoming games at the water cooler, and excitedly plan the food and beverage menus for each game gathering.
Without the Saints every season, we admittedly all feel a little lost. For fans, players, and coaches alike, this offseason has felt particularly long and anxious. The stretch of months without a Saints game normally feels long enough already, but with the summer’s never-ending bounty allegations case, the time passed twice as slowly.
Allegations were made that Saints players and personnel were involved in a pay-for-performance pool that included intent to injure opposing players. As a result, the NFL handed down suspensions of varying length to Saints players, coaches, and even the general manager, though no actual facts or evidence in the case were ever made apparent.
Needless to say, the Who Dat Nation—and of course, the franchise itself—have been enraged, eager to start the new season and prove to the football-watching world that nothing would keep the Saints or the city of New Orleans down. Like our team and city’s comeback from Katrina, this season we will come back with a vengeance to set the record straight—and once again thrash our opponents fair and square.
Luckily, the most recent developments in the bounty case including the lifting of the players’ suspensions just in time for Week 1 of regular season. It’s also the first home Dome game, in which the Saints meet the Washington Redskins—great news for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith.
However, this latest announcement has no effect on the non-players’ suspensions, including beloved head coach Sean Payton’s year-long suspension, which was been much reviled by fans and sports analysts alike. In response, Dirty Coast retailers released “Free Sean Payton” shirts, which have started a small movement in the Big Easy. During the pregame of last week’s season opener in New York City, someone even flew a Free Sean Payton banner in the sky overhead of the nationally televised festivities.
Also exciting for this year, the New Orleans and the Superdome will host the 2013 Super Bowl. The city is already abuzz with plans and activities, which will grow exponentially as February draws nearer. If there’s any city ripe with enough experience, culture, and entertainment to captivate and enliven the nation and a Super Bowl crowd, it’s this one.
Past seasons, this summer’s bounty drama, and the future Super Bowl aside, we in the Who Dat Nation are simply happy to have our boys in the black and gold back, as well as the treasured Sunday afternoons we spend watching them.