Who dat? The Saints, that’s who

Published 12:55 am Sunday, January 17, 2010

When I moved down to Natchez two-and-a-half years ago, I had to adjust to a couple of different things.

I had to get used to being the sports editor of a daily newspaper, which was a new experience for me.

I had to adjust to being away from my wife and kids for about six months until a job came open at The Democrat for my wife, allowing her to move down here with our three daughters.

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But I also had to adjust to the sports landscape of the area, and the fact that while I was technically still living in Mississippi, I might as well be living in Louisiana.

Growing up in north Alabama and going to school and living in north Mississippi for several years, I got used to people cheering for Mississippi State, Ole Miss and the Tennessee Titans.

But not here. Down in the Miss-Lou, LSU is the college of choice for most people and the New Orleans Saints are the pro team that most everybody lives and breaths.

And boy, what a show they have been putting on.

Saints fans are a long-suffering bunch, waiting patiently as the team, which came into the NFL in 1976, slogged its way through losing season after losing season.

Before the Saints ever gained notoriety for winning games, they gained some exposure for fans wearing bags on their heads at games and then-coach Jim Mora’s sometimes explosive press conferences.

But that was then. This is now.

The Saints were one of the NFL’s best teams all season long before losing their final three games, and allowing doubts to creep back in for those that bleed black and gold.

However, they roared back Saturday in the division round of the playoffs with a 45-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

New Orleans will now host the NFL Championship Game next week against either the Dallas Cowboys or Minnesota Vikings, and will probably be a favorite against either team.

For the second time in four years, the Saints are one win away from reaching the Super Bowl. Only this time, they get to try at home.

The Saints fans are some of the most passionate and unique in professional sports.

All NFL teams have fans, but no other team grips an entire region of the country the way the Saints do.

The Saints aren’t just a sports team for Louisianans and south Mississippians. They are a way of life.

That was made all the more evident in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

People in Louisiana and Mississippi rallied around the Saints as a way to heal after the devastation of the hurricane, and the team rode that wave all the way to the NFL Championship Game in 2006.

Now, after two sub par seasons, they are back again, ready to make their first ever Super Bowl appearance and give their long suffering passionate fans the thrill of a lifetime.

And if that happens, maybe the cheer that Saints fans have long said might actually come true.

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Nobody!

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at sports@natchezdemocrat.com.