Tonight, I went to the final pre-season Saints game at the Superdome. We lost and everyone took it in stride. I’d had a great night running into friends, meeting nice people and getting a big hug from keyboardist extraordinaire, John Gros. I even met a girl who’d moved here from Los Angeles after only vacationing in the city 2 times. The “Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Moves,” 610 Stompers, took the field for the halftime show, performing 3 dances including crowd favorite, their original Halftime (Stand Up & Get Crunk!) routine. But, my partner in “Who Datting,” a native New Orleanian named Andy, had a much more nostalgic evening.
Turns out, I’ve never really had the true Saints experience. I arrived in New Orleans when the Saints were undefeated and on their way to their historic moment at the Superbowl. My Saints are a team that strikes fear in other teams. My Saints are dream-come-true champions who cemented this city’s rebirth from the devastation of Katrina. But, for people who lived here all their lives, the Saints are, infamously, the “Aint’s.” I make a practice of letting other tell their own stories but since Andy doesn’t have a blog, here’s a retelling of his nostalgic night.
He’d gotten the upper tier tickets for $15 apiece which reminded him of the old days when you could get an upper tier seat during a regular season game for $5. “Now, if you want to go to the game, you gotta pawn your jewels.” The casual attitude the crowd had about losing apparently wasn’t just because it was a pre-season game, it’s because they were used to it. Before Katrina, they never went to games expecting to win. Like tonight, lots of seats were empty. And, like tonight, there were clumps of neighbors, cousins and school friends, shouting to each other over our shoulders and many empty seats instead of just sitting together in the wrong seats. And like tonight, the team would make mistakes and “we’d watch them get their asses kicked.”
“That was our existence. That was our team before Katrina. We never expected them to win.”
“It was like going to a bar with overpriced drinks. You’d hang out and watch your team lose and talk about the defense or the coach but we never talked about, ‘When are these guys gonna play the Superbowl?'”
“It makes the dream of the Superbowl even sweeter.”
And it was like a dream – even without all that history, I had the experience of daring to believe that anything can happen, the Saints can win the Superbowl. But what I never had, what Andy gave me a window into, was that I never got to enjoy the lack of pressure that comes from having a lovable loser team. Though none of us could believe it when the Saints actually won, we all became hungry for 2 Dat as soon as the next season approached. And as the new season opens, hopes are high that we’re heading to the big game again this year.
I love my Saints. My Saints are intimidating winners. My Saints are crowd pleasers, celebrities and an inspiration. But the Aint’s seem like a lot of fun – lovable losers from whom little was expected and less was delivered. Bless Sean Payton and the team he has built. Bless Drew Brees for his leadership during the lockout and his love for this city and it’s favorite team. I believe we can win another Lombardi this year. But, I’m going to try to remember that loving a losing team can have its own magic. I’m glad I got to go to the Dome and see how fun it can be to cheer on a team with my community no matter what the scoreboard says.