What a weekend for football in Louisiana. First up was the hugely anticipated “game of the century,” the “clash of the titans,” number one ranked LSU faced off with number 2 ranked Alabama. It’s fair to say they were evenly matched. The game was a very low scoring, edge of your seat, defense-heavy tit-for-tat that ended in a 9-6 victory in overtime. What a game. Though I never attended LSU, I’ve always owed the university my life as my parents met while attending there.
I watched the game in Baton Rouge, home of the Tigers, with a family who’d mostly gone to LSU. Everyone was wearing their purple and gold and the team’s logo was found throughout the house. A house party in Louisiana almost guarantees great food and this gathering was no exception. The beef skewers and chicken/andouille jambalaya were wonderful and I’m a sucker for a giant cookie. Driving back into NOLA, it was a thrill to see the new lights on the Superdome put to fun use. The Dome shone on the horizon like a setting sun in stripes of purple and gold.
I was once again surprised with tickets to the Saints game in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. I threw on my Who Dat gear and walked downtown, joining the sea of black and gold clad fans following the Saints’ clarion call. A band expertly covered Foreigner’s musically complex Foreplay/Long Time then slipped into Prince’s Kiss. I continue to find the standard for cover bands very high here.
The lines for women to go through security were just as long as the men’s. I noticed this week that I got into conversations with women about the Saints at least a half dozen times. Some of the women were friends, some strangers, and they ranged in age from 27 – 65. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced this much feminine fandom in any other city for any other team. I love all the hair do-dads and miniature Who Dat plumed top hats women wear, the black and gold stilettos worn with jeans and player jerseys. But perhaps the best thing about having so many women there is how cute they dress all their accompanying children. Today’s favorite was a boy with a faux-hawk hairdo painted like a helmet with a stripe down the center and black fleur de lis on either side.
I love how every game starts with 3 super loud, super intimidating chants of, “Who Dat! Who Dat! Who Dat sayin’ they gonna beat them Saints!?!” Once again, I was privy to a moment of team and fan nostalgia as we all celebrated the Saints 45th birthday. The Saintsations were joined on the field by dozens of former Sainsations and many former Saints players, including many Hall of Famers, took their applause. For their part, the players wore their “throwback” uniforms.
And, once again, I witnessed records being broken. Perhaps the most fun factoid is that Drew Brees is now the first quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in the first nine games of the season in the history of the NFL. Today’s game brought his yardage to 3,004 for the year, beating the previous record of 2,985 yards in 2008 – set by Drew Brees. Bless our boys.
In the second play of the game, cornerback Tracy Porter lay injured on the field for more than 10 minutes and had to be removed by stretcher. I tried to put it out of my mind (along with our coach, Sean Payton still being stuck in the booth injured) but I kept having trouble fully enjoying the game after hearing he’d been taken away in an ambulance – troubling because, like most stadiums, the Dome has excellent onsite medical facilities.
The Saints were, once again, victorious, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-16. After the game, I once again turned my attention to Porter. I don’t remember being this concerned for a player’s health since watching Joe Theisman’s career ending injury. So many homes in New Orleans sport “Bless our Boys” signs in the windows and now I think I really get that. It is an obvious phrase of our gratitude but I think it’s also a plea that they are kept safe from harm.
Turns out that Porter is fine, having suffered a minor neck injury. Apparently, I was far from alone in my concern for a man I’ve never met. When he saw the city’s response, Porter Tweeted, “This is why I love the #WhoDatNation. We are one big family. I’m doing good u guys, I look forward to being back soon. I love u guys.”
The guys sitting next to us were from Pensacola, Florida. They were season ticket holders who drive in for every home game. Turns out that the Saints are the de facto team for many areas of the South including parts of Mississippi and Alabama and the Florida panhandle. I like that our team unifies more than a city or a state, that it helps unify a region.
We ended our action packed football weekend by walking through the French Quarter after the game. Between the super-tight LSU-Bama game and over 3 hours of using my all to drown out the opposing team’s ability to hear at the Saints game, I felt utterly spent and beyond privileged to get to be a football fan in the great state of Louisiana.