Love for Saints goes above and beyond

Published 12:55 am Sunday, February 7, 2010

It’s been said by some that Natchez is a little New Orleans.

And for the last two weeks, that has been particularly true.

No matter where you look in the Miss-Lou, all you see is black and gold.

And it doesn’t take much straining with your ears to hear the familiar strains of Who Dat!

That’s because ever since the New Orleans Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 24 to advance to the first Super Bowl in the franchise’s history, local Saints fans, just like those across the Southeast and the country, have come out in full force.

Saints fans all across the area have gone all out to express their love for their favorite team.

One diehard fan put a huge Saints banner on the roof of her house.

Schools across the area allowed students to ditch their uniform for one day and instead wear Saints regalia.

Pep rallies also took place a numerous schools, not for the school’s basketball team, but for the Saints.

And the local Krewe parades weren’t celebrating Mardi Gras nearly as much as they normally do.

They were parading in celebration of the Saints instead.

It’s enough to make someone who is not native to the area or lived here a long time wonder what the big deal is.

For one thing, while the team is called the New Orleans Saints, it might as well be called the Gulf South Saints.

For people living in the Gulf South the Saints are it as far as professional sports teams go.

Before the Saints came into existence in 1967, people living in this area of the country had no pro team that was close by to root for.

The South is football country, but there were no pro football teams to cheer for.

The closest ones were way over in Texas or down in south Florida.

There was no team that fit in the geographic or cultural area of the Gulf South.

Enter the Saints.

In 1967, people who lived in Louisiana and on the Gulf Coast finally had a team they could call their own, and they never forgot them.

Even when the Saints were struggling to win games, which has happened more often that not in the team’s 43-year existence, the fans still loved them like they were their own child.

Hurricane Katrina only increased the love affair between the Saints and their fans.

When the city of New Orleans was underwater and the Gulf Coast was basically destroyed by the killer storm, there was a fear that the team would move to San Antonio.

But they returned to the battered city, and brought with them a hope that things would eventually be alright.

The Saints were a shining beacon to the region and became its pride and joy.

And now that the team has finally reached the pinnacle of the NFL, its long-suffering fans know how to react only one way. By throwing a party.

So if you’re a visitor just happening be driving through town today, don’t expect to see anyone out in the streets.

Unless, of course, the Saints complete the dream and upset the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

Then expect the street, at least the downtown ones, to be crowded with Saints fans celebrating one more time.

And I’m sure you won’t even have to roll down your windows to hear that familiar chant that’s been shouted thousands of times the past two weeks, but would be shouted louder than ever Sunday night.

Who dat!

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