The world’s biggest sporting contest is upon us, and the Southern storylines could not be more prevalent. With the Saints and the Colts meeting in the Super Bowl, Swampland fans should be thoroughly entertained by the matchup of an exciting New Orleans team representing the pride of a region going against an Indy squad led by a legend-in-the-making quarterback from the South’s first family of football. Both teams play an up-tempo, fun style and should put on quite a show in Miami.
We have to start with the Saints and their incredible journey from moribund franchise to permanent “road” team after Hurricane Katrina to inspiration for the Crescent City to NFC Champions. After beating the Vikings in a raucous Superdome, star quarterback Drew Brees talked about what New Orleans’ spirit means to the team:
"The city is on its way to recovery and in a lot of ways it's back better than ever," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose team is an early four-point underdog to Indianapolis. "For us as a team, we use the strength and resiliency of our fans. We go out and play every Sunday and go out with the confidence to do it. We're going to achieve everything we've set out to achieve."
The scene on Bourbon Street was amazing to watch after the NFC Championship victory. Football fans (and others) partied throughout the night, celebrating the team that has been a bonding factor for an area that was torn apart just a few short years ago. The Saints represent what is good about sports and how an NFL franchise can be such a positive within a community. Brees has been the face of the resurgence on the field and has become quite the celebrity throughout the city.
As to the effect the Super Bowl berth has had on life in New Orleans, you have to look no further than Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris. He had these quotes about delaying a trial until after the Big Game:
"The court takes judicial notice that Saintsmania permeates the city of New Orleans," Bagneris wrote in a one-paragraph ruling in an asbestos lawsuit, filed in 2005 by Dano Paul Becnel against Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Inc., and about 20 others.
"Many prospective jurors for the parish of Orleans, several attorneys involved in this litigation and court personnel plan on traveling to the promised land -- the Super Bowl in Miami, Florida," wrote Bagneris, a 17-year veteran of the Civil District Court on Loyola Avenue.
"The court recognizes that this pilgrimage enhances the chances of the Who Dat Nation to acquire the long sought-after Holy Grail: the Vince Lombardi trophy."
In addition, some schools in the area considering canceling school the Monday after the Super Bowl.
"We feel that it is not in the best interest of our students to be required to attend school on a day when a significant number of absences or tardiness will be the reality, and when learning will not be optimal," said spokeswoman Lisa Sibal at St. Martin's Episcopal School in Metairie.
"Given the excitement of the city, we felt it would be a good thing to do," Moran said. "Most people will be going to functions and be out late, and if the Saints win there will be even more celebrations."
As far as the Colts, they of course are led by 4-time MVP and New Orleans native Peyton Manning. He would be a New Orleans favorite under any other circumstance, but going against the Saints will see the hometown crowd pulling against the Isidore Newman School product. In addition, Manning’s favorite target- wide receiver Reggie Wayne- is a New Orleans-area native and is building a $16 million family entertainment center in Marrero. Obviously the Colts play in a Midwest city, but their presence in the AFC South and their exciting offense led by Southern collegiate stars (Manning-Tennessee, Wayne-Miami, Joseph Addai-LSU, Jeff Saturday-North Carolina) makes them a Swampland favorite as well.
Whether the Saints win or lose in Miami, the important thing is that they have been a driving force in the rebirth of New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina. “Who Dat?” fans may not be happy if the Colts win, but they can take pride in native sons like Manning and Wayne who have both done great work for the community. If the Saints do win, the party on Bourbon Street may surpass Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest combined.
This Super Bowl should be a blast to watch, both for the exciting squads on the field and the leaders of each team who mean so much to our region.