The Saints, live and in person!

Like most Americans, I’ve never been to the Superdome and associate it with the debacle that was Katrina. Sunday, I geared up for yet another game day in the French Quarter. Saints earrings, shirt and slippers – check. Cable working – check. Who Dat spirit – check!

At 1 pm, I asked who was playing and when I heard it was Seattle, I checked my email to see if my friend, who’s involved with the team, was in town for the game at 3 pm. Unfortunately, no, but he’d left 2 tickets for me at will call.

I’ll confess that I’ve been wanting to go to a game in person since last year but nearly the entire stadium is filled with season ticket holders who are loathe to sell their tickets while we still have a shot at 2 Dat (2 Super Bowls in a row). Heck, most people were hanging onto those tickets even when the Saints weren’t much to talk about, passing them from generation to generation like any other valuable piece of turf.

It had been a rough weekend in town. A power outage had shut down the entire city’s water purification system Friday night and the water was cut off shortly thereafter. A boil order had been issued so many in town hadn’t shaved or showered in days to avoid the risk of bacterial infections. I had crazy hair and was brushing my teeth with bottled water but nothing could have kept me from that game.

Many a game day, I’ve crossed Poydras, seen the parade of game-jerseyed people making their way to the Dome and wished I could join their masses. Sunday, it was finally my turn. All along the street were industrious entrepreneurs selling beers at 2 for $5, second line parasols in black and gold or buttons with player’s faces. It was 80 and sunny, a beautiful day for a crosstown walk.

The suite level is an endless hallway with open doors exposing families, business partners and the like munching on free food. The closed door to the opposing team’s suite was guarded by 2 men in suits. We arrived in our head-to-toe Saints gear with our fancy neck tags and smiled as we reached for the door handle. The suited men stopped us dead, certain that we’d unwittingly wandered into enemy territory. But neck tags don’t lie and they reluctantly let us in.

There were about a dozen people inside, the Seahawks senior management and people who worked for other divisions of the owner’s company. Before arriving, I’d asked my generous friend a couple of times if it was going to be okay for us to be loud and proud Who Dats and was assured it would be fine, but I’ll admit to feeling a bit concerned about how the Seahawk folks would react to our enthusiasm for their enemy du jour.

At one point, the woman sitting closest to me in the regular seating could resist no longer and had to ask – what are you doing in there? I hadn’t fully realized how obviously out of place we appeared, not just to those in our suite, but to the season ticket holders around us who were used to politely ignoring the many visiting team posses who come before us. I told her I was a friend of the enemy and she let me know that she thought that was mighty cool for them to allow us to cheer our team even as we were beating theirs.

I’d heard a few times that the best part of the game is just before the television broadcast begins.  I’d heard about the decibel level as 85,000 people all shout with abandon, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience. Just before the cameras went live, Saint 44, Heath Evans, held his helmet in the air then brought it down with the force of spiking a ball in the end zone. 85,000 people chanted, “Who Dat! Who Dat! Who Dat saying’ dey gonna beat dem Saints!” 3 times. It was so fast and loud and intimidating that I felt empathy for the many opposing teams who’ve been subjected to our unbridled enthusiasm. No wonder the Saints often score points in the first few minutes of their games.

In the suite to our left, people ate hot dogs and nachos, to our right was more of the stadium friendly fare, but we feasted on gumbo and shrimp and bread pudding. I’m fairly spoiled when it comes to gumbo so I was thrilled to find it was in the ballpark of my aunt’s good gumbo, and not the stuff normally served to tourists in the French Quarter.

Whenever the Saints score a touchdown, the entire stadium stands up and gets “Crunk” to the Ying Yang Twins. I danced enthusiastically 4 times! Geaux Saints! After the the first 2 times, one of the gentleman in the suite confided that he was a local. I think he was wishing he could get crunk too. He also revealed that he’d paraded in the Buddy D. parade last year, where all the men dressed as women to honor the late sportscaster who’d sworn he’d wear a dress and parade through the streets if the Saints ever got into the Super Bowl. The manly-man local said he’d worn, “a black velvet backless number.” Well done.

The Saints continue to bring me joy and a great sense of community in my new home of New Orleans. When the season started, many in town talked about getting into the Super Bowl again this year. I’d smile and nod or make jokes about how it wouldn’t be the same, “You can’t pop a cherry twice.” Now, I’m getting the fever again, beginning to believe again. It’s okay if they don’t make it, but wouldn’t that be something…

Link for the Saints:

And the Saintsations:

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Filed under Culture, free events and lagniappe, Local Cuisine, Super Bowl 2010, the Saints, walking

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