If you love winning, and most fans do, it’s a great time to be a Saints and Tigers fan. The latest Saints game was against the Carolina Panthers. It was the first division game for both teams and things were a bit more personal than usual. Former Saint, Jeremy Shockey, is now a Panther. Insanely talented (first rookie QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in his first NFL game) Panther quarterback, Cam Newton, admitted to being a huge fan of Drew Brees. Newton’s brother used to be a center for the Saints.
The Saints seem to love giving us fans a nail-biter but they usually come through in the end and this game was no exception. Fans crowded around TVs in bars and homes throughout the French Quarter were louder than usual. I love that everyone in the French Quarter wears black and gold on game day. When I say everyone, I mean the drivers of the horse-drawn carriages, the exotic dancers who stand in doorways on Bourbon Street enticing men into their clubs, the bands playing the bars, the elegant older Southerners, infants, even dogs.
Like most cities, we have favorite players whose jerseys sell like hotcakes, but unlike other cities I’ve lived in, there are at least a dozen players, from a wide variety of positions, whose jerseys people love to sport. I wondered what would happen to all those old Bush and Shockey jerseys after they left the team. Few people wear their Bush jerseys anymore and some cross out his name with duct tape, but Shockey continues to be well represented. New Saints, Sproles and Graham, are popping up on jerseys everywhere now. Graham has even inspired a few nicknames already. Guys seem to like The Graham Reaper while women tend toward Golden Graham.
Speaking of women, turns out New Orleans Saints fans buy more female apparel than any other team in the NFL. In Los Angeles, people get away with wearing sunglasses to just about everything. Here, Saints apparel is welcome at all but the toniest of events. The recently deceased Archbishop Hannan proved they were even worthy of the alter on Sundays. I now own 2 Saints t-shirts, 2 long sleeved Saints shirts, a pair of Saints helmet earrings and a Who Dat! bracelet. And I’m just getting started. It’s like back-to-school shopping every time the season starts. Walmart fills their Saints/LSU section to bursting with everything from fleur de lis-emblazoned boxer-briefs and serving platters to slippers, koozies and inviting LSU snuggies.
I only own one LSU shirt and I don’t always wear it on game day but here’s the thing… I was a Terp. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, I was a devoted Terrapin fan for my last 3 years of college, painting my face for home games and even following them on the road a couple of times. That said, my parents met at LSU. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the place responsible for my creation. This year has seen a bit of scandal with the arrests of Jordon Jefferson and Joshua Johns for second-degree battery. Charges against Jefferson were reduced to a misdemeanor and dropped against Johns. If you can ignore the bad taste the whole thing leaves in your mouth, this is an amazing year to be a Tigers fan.
LSU is ranked number 1 and has a 6-0 season so far. When their quarterback was away, the defense continued to tow the team line, keeping them unbeatable. In the fourth quarter, opposing teams are often described by sportscasters as, “Hoping to get some points on the board.” Only Alabama’s Crimson Tide looks like they might have what it takes to end the streak.
After the Saints nail-biting game ended, fans spilled out onto the streets chanting Who Dats! From a bar down the street, Angela Bell’s 1987 song, I Believe! resounded past a woman dancing in a doorway – okay, that was me. Within minutes, the dozens of pockets of people in bars turned into a street party and they were still exuberantly shouting hours later. During the games, the French Quarter belongs to the tourists. Carriage rides go by at twice the speed and there are almost no cars or bikes. Most of the people on the streets have a camera. They wear normal clothing. But after the games, the streets gush black and gold enthusiasm.
And before the game, anything can happen. A wedding second line paraded past led by a brass band. Everyone had festively decorated second line umbrellas. I grabbed the nearest camera and as they rounded the corner, I realized the bride was a roller derby girl. Many of the bridal party rolled by in black and gold hot pants and kneepads. You just never know what good time you’re going to celebrate next in this city.