In a few hours, the New Orleans Saints will play in their first Super Bowl. When they won the NFC Championship game two weeks ago in overtime, the city erupted in pandemonium. There were fireworks, cheering, horns honking, people screaming in the streets. Grown men crying. If they win tonight…well, I can’t even imagine.
So this must mean the Saints are the soul of New Orleans. At least that’s what the media has proclaimed over and over as they tell the story of how much the team means to a broken and battered city. Even Gregg Rosenthal, NBCSports.com writer and Tulane University graduate has more or less positioned himself as the outside expert on the city in his recent columns, wrote: “The team is the heartbeat the city, of everyone you meet.”
By that logic, everyone in the city would drop dead if the Saints no longer existed. There’d be nothing left to live for. There’s nothing else keeping this city alive. Apparently he’s forgotten the distinct local flavor that permeates the humid air. The joie de vivre of every day living here. The culture, the history, the brass bands and cuisine. None of this is contingent upon our football team.
But here’s why we love them, and here’s why they’ve made such a great story that writers like Rosenthal are compelled to make sweeping statements: Because the team reflects our underdog experience, because the team has similarly risen from the ashes, bounced back from adversity. Because our love for the Saints reflects our welcoming attitude towards outsiders. Because a winning football teams gives us another reason to party–not that we need one, but we’ll take it. Because guys like Drew Brees have given back to this community. And because we’ve waited a really, really long time for this.
You’ll hear a lot about the Saints’ story, the city’s story, today. But make no mistake: The New Orleans Saints are not the heart and soul, the lifeblood, the heartbeat, the whatever, of this city. The people are.