Saints Alive!

Which group of athletes has the temerity to claim that their abilities are superior to our Sainted footballers on the gridiron? Which group of athletes? Which group of athletes?*

Those of you who’ve never lived near the Gulf Coast may have trouble understanding just how big yesterday’s Super Bowl victory really was. It’s not simply Katrina, though that makes for a great story. In reality, the frustration and humiliation borne by Saint fans go back much, much farther. I’ve never worn a bag on my head, but I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around a winning season, much less staring down a perfect season, much less being in the conference championship and winning it, much less taking a trip to the Super Bowl – I kept nervously looking over my shoulder for the cruel reality-show camera that’d reveal it was all a gag. Impostor syndrome showed up.

We weren’t supposed to get past the conference, and wouldn’t have without two pieces of luck: an errant Brett Favre pass, and winning the sudden-death overtime coin toss. Now we faced perhaps the greatest quarterback ever, a guy hailing from New Orleans to boot! Sometimes you make your own luck, like the onside kick that began the second half and permanently revved the Saints into championship gear. And sometimes you just have to trust that when you’re dealing with a bunch of Saints, there have to be some miracles around there somewhere.

When they asked the question, I used to make people smile by saying, “I don’t follow pro football. I’m a Saint fan.” (When the Saints were out of the picture, which was usually about halfway through the season, my allegiance shifted to whatever New York team was still standing: when the Jints – led by young Master Manning – won it all in the last seconds a few years ago, I was yelling right along with them.) But not any more. Nowadays, perhaps through a sniffle or two, “My friend, I’m a fan of the NFL Champion New Orleans Saints!”

*In Cajun: “Who dat say gone beat dem Saints? Who dat? Who dat?”

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