REVITALIZED: New Orleans has seen its share of bad football
teams along with turmoil and the memory of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
But with the Saints reaching the Super Bowl, the city along with their
famous â€œWho Datâ€ rallying cry, is once again the target of positive
attention and hopes to start Mardi Gras next week in the glow of Super
Saints help New Orleans rise again
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
We all remember the images from five years ago this upcoming August. New Orleans with other parts of the South covered in water and millions of lives altered forever due to the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.
The Superdome went from a football haven to an actual one – a place for refuge for those who suddenly lost it all, needed medical attention or came to serve those in need.
Flash forward to today. New Orleans’ beloved Saints are now one win away from bringing a Super Bowl back to a city that is starting to once again see better days and uplifted spirits.
Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday is another chapter in not just the team’s rebirth but the city’s as well.
Before Katrina, the Saints’ football history was an ignoble one. Prior to 2005, the team was 1-5 in postseason play and had only won two division titles. Who can forget fans wearing paper bags over their heads as the team was dubbed the ‘Aints.
They were routinely among the laughingstocks of the NFL But all that changed in 2006 after the team made key personnel moves.
Enter Reggie Bush and Marques Colston via the NFL Draft, Drew Brees via a trade with San Diego and a new coach in Sean Payton. A team with a new identity came back to a resilient city ready to take their minds away from an epic tragedy.
That first game in the Superdome was one of the defining sports moments of the past decade. With plenty of pregame celebrations focusing on their return, the Saints scored a blocked punt on the game’s first possession led to a touchdown that Saints fans will never forget.
In the last four seasons, they’ve have had one of the most explosive offenses in football. They won two division titles and transformed from NFL bottom-feeders to one of the most fun teams to watch this season.
This year, they started 13-0 but needed a few miracles to get to the Super Bowl, something that always used to go against them in the past. In the NFC championship, they needed a late interception to force overtime and well as a game winning field goal.
But more than the number of points they’ve put up, they’ve embodied the resiliency of a city that wants to return to a place among the country’s finest.
With every electrifying run by Bush or Pierre Thomas or a sensational catch by Colston, Lance Moore or Robert Meachem, the fans rejoice and the city gets another boost.
It’s difficult to fathom in Los Angeles where pro football is a matter of personal preference not city pride. But in cities like New Orleans, the team is the center of attention where Monday moods are usually determined by Sunday’s game.
There remains scores of work to be done in rebuilding certain areas of the city. The lessons of Katrina can be seen in how the region responded to threat of Hurricane Gustav in 2008 and the national response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
But with the eyes of nation behind them as the new America’s Team, the greatest season in Saints history will end in Miami on Sunday.
This upcoming Tuesday, the city will celebrate Mardi Gras. And nothing would give the city a bigger reason to celebrate than a Super Bowl.
With 40 years of frustration as a franchise and the past five years coming back from the worst natural disaster in American history, it could be the biggest party in the history of a city known for their parties.
And five years after Hurricane Katrina forever altered the city, Sunday will be a reminder that New Orleans and its team are on their way back to recovery.