The Saints have a name for for the fans that attend the games at the Superdome – the Twelfth Man. Like all fans, we cheer on our team when they do well and encourage them when they need it. What makes us the Twelfth Man, the extra player on the field, is our volume. We play defense, drowning out all attempts by the opposing team to communicate in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. Just like the team brings a little extra enthusiasm to each playoff game driving them closer to the Super Bowl, so did the Twelfth Man.
As we headed down Bourbon Street toward the Dome in upper 70’s weather, it was like Mardi Gras with every hotel room booked, people throwing beads off balconies and brass bands every few blocks. New Orleans is home to 2 big games this week, the Saints first victory in the playoffs and LSU’s rematch with Alabama for the BCS Championship. Though our shirts aren’t all the same color, the city has literally been wall to wall football fans for a week.
The chants of Who Dat!?! started on Bourbon St., continued in Champions Square, in the ticket line, in the lobby and on the escalators. The Twelfth Man had come to win. I’m not usually in a seat early enough to watch Drew Brees lead the team in his “I’m in My Own Zone” chant. I love that our team gets fired up by dancing. It’s very New Orleans.
There are a lot of “only in New Orleans” kinds of things. We have second lines and the umbrellas that go with them. We get “Crunk” after every touchdown and there’s never a bad time to hear that song or wear a Saints Jersey. I’ve shared before about the recently departed Archbishop Hannan, but I’ve stumbled onto another Catholic priest leading his Who Dat Nation flock to victory of all kinds. Pastor Rev. R.Tony Ricard of Our Lady of the Star Sea Roman Catholic Church is a graduate of St. Augustine High School, has a B.S. from Loyola and a Master’s from Xavier (as well as one from Notre Dame Seminary) who taught public school before becoming a Core Instructor of Church Doctrine at Xavier and preaching in 18 countries. I even saw a photo of him as a Mardi Gras Indian. He’s also the Saints’ team chaplain. After the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010, this video was shot of Pastor Ricard as a jersey-wearing, Who Dat chanting, Crunk-dancing, umbrella-wielding, joyous NOLA native leading his congregation in giving thanks for the team’s victory. Seeing is believing (though I wish you could hear the music better).
The Saturday night game was introduced by the LSU Tiger Marching Band and chants of “LSU.” NOLA native, Mad Men‘s Bryan Batt, sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Then it was on. I watched the game at home later (New Orleanians love reliving glory and I am no exception) and it was a real nail-biter, but in the Dome, it felt like nothing could stop us. Pierre Thomas played the game of a lifetime. The team set yet another bunch of records including the most yards ever in a playoff game (626).
The last quarter of the game was an offensive field day. We fans hardly had to do our jobs as human noisemakers and kept getting more opportunities to dance. We get our tickets online from NFL Ticket Exchange and, just like in the “Pain & Fortune” commercial, in order for us to enjoy the experience of cheering on our beloved Saints, someone else has to give up their seats. Sometimes we find out who’s missing the game from the season ticket holders around us. Janelle, who sat with us, introduced herself by saying, I’m so glad you’re Saints fans” then told us we had her father’s seats. He’d fallen ill before the holidays and, though he was finally home, as a Twelfth Man, he was on injured reserve. The game wore us all out. We stood most of the time and never let up on the noise that’s been compared to jet engines and freight trains. Plus, there was all that dancing. I’m sorry Bob Anderson missed the game, but what a time we had!
And as seats go, section 611 had it’s advantages. First of all, there are top-tier bathrooms right there with no lines. And, it’s right next to the infamous section 610, birthplace of the 610 Stompers all male dance troupe. I didn’t realize we were sitting there until I ran into founder, Brett Patron, who later gave our sections a bit of the Stompers’ signature Crunk dance routine. What a treat!
This was my first time attending a playoff game. It had all the charms of every game in the Dome but the team and its Twelfth Man hit a whole new level of energy. I’m so very glad I was there to be a part of it. Now, Geaux Tigers!!!