In many respects, it was the greatest game ever played in the Superdome.
The crowd was entertained by several outstanding bands. Emotions were fever-pitched long before the soul-stirring rendition of the national anthem by Irma Thomas and Alan Toussaint and the toss of the coin by Ex-President George Bush. From then on, the packed-house seldom sat down.
And we watched one of the best defenses ever put together by a Saints’ team and an offense that took advantage of its opportunities.
Saints 23 – Falcons 3. That’s a number that will go down in history as one of the memorable times in professional football.
Leading up to this remarkable outcome was the devastation last year unlike the world has ever known. And the site of the game became the tragic focal point of that devastation.
Many said the Superdome should never be restored. Too many bad memories would harbor in it. Besides, it wasn’t up to today’s NFL standards and could never host a Superbowl again.
But it was restored and it is on a par, perhaps better, than it ever was. And more improvements are planned for this historic structure.
It was ready Monday night for the biggest game in the history of the Saints’ franchise. The playing field was very runnable. The seats, many of them new ones, were comfortable though little used by the stand-up crowd. Refreshment stands were plentiful. And the scoreboards, though the operator got carried away with the excitement many times and didn’t always record the downs and yardages right, were very readable once we got used to them.
But the game was the highlight. Two undefeated teams, the Falcons favored by three and the leadership of the NFL South at stake added to the importance of this significant contest. But even that would not have ordinarily merited the excitement that was created.
It was a dramatic comeback for the team, its fans and a region that has suffered severely during the past year. Testimony to this was the fact that the fans stayed long after the final down, taking in the overwhelming joy that was created with “Who dats” resonating all over.
The game was a prime-time event on national TV and certainly displayed that southeast Louisiana is alive and well. It must have inspired many outsiders to know that such a devastation as Hurricane Katrina cannot destroy the human spirit and the ability to enjoy life.
It is significant to know that the Saints’ fan base has expanded. Season tickets are sold out for the year for the first time in history and to many new fans stretched out to other parts of south Louisiana and Mississippi. That is similar to what the Green Bay Packers did for fan support many years ago.
The Saints’ victory and fan support Monday night shows that this area is on the cutting edge of making the most of what we are given to live with. It was a triumph in many ways.