The Black and Gold. The Boys of the Dome. The UNDEFEATED New Orleans Saints. No matter your preferred reference, these are our boys, New Orleans – our older brothers and our sons fighting like warriors every week, making us proud, giving us hope – standing as a symbol of the resilience that has become synonymous with the people of New Orleans. Drew Brees is not kidding when he shouts, “WE ARE NEW ORLEANS!” as he pumps the boys up, preparing them to give to us the gift of their best for those few hours on the field each week. And although I may occasionally joke with my friends about wanting to practice having babies with Jeremy Shockey (a feat impossible as I can no longer have children, meaning there would need to be A LOT of practice) when out of ear shot of my wonderful husband (Love you, Honey!) this deep love for the New Orleans Saints – the kind of love that comes from the tip of your toes and leaves you with butterflies in your tummy and every time you look at the object of your affection you cannot help but smile your biggest smile – represents so much more. What they represent is different for each of us, they truly being an extension of our identity here in New Orleans.
The Saints remind me of that innocent enthusiasm we had as children, impatiently waiting for the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus. As game time approaches, my friends and I become a choir of “Who Dats!” and “Let’s go boys!” while posting anthems found on you-tube: we are an electronic tailgate. For a few hours we get back that excitement we held as children, the same one that leaves us as we grow into adults forced into the real world of responsibility. We create silly slogans mocking the team we are facing that week, talk a little bit of trash with our friends who favor other teams (especially those damn Viking fans!) and counting down until we see Drew Brees and Boys huddled up, screaming, declaring that they are us. And we are them.
I come from Wisconsin, a state where fans recently burnt Brett Favre jerseys when it was announced he was going to be playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Packer fans love their football and are loyal to a fault, but they aren’t Saints fans.
There ain’t any fan like a Saint fan.
My love for our New Orleans Saints stems far deeper than the pride I feel being apart of this wonderful city and the people who have now become my family. The New Orleans Saints are my prozac.
It’s been a year mixed with heartaches, loss and blessings at Casa de Mueller. My father, bless him, passed away in May, joining my mother to whichever drive-in up in the sky they could agree to. My father had lived a long life, full of adventure and stories – but I really wasn’t prepared for how his death would affect me, particularly since it marked celebrating my thirty-third birthday without parents. I felt like an orphan, alone, and not in the cool Oliver Twist sort of way, causing a whole year of firsts without them. As pre-season began, the road to sadness was particularly dark. It was those pre-season games, those interviews with Brees and the boys, that gave me something to look forward to – even if just for a few hours of the week. I had withdrawn from everything else but our boys.
As the season progressed, I withdrew a little less, began my ‘Who Dat!’ chat, and connected with a lot of really wonderful people over a team that represents hard work, skill, talent and determination. A team that represents strength. A team that represents each of us here, struggling to find our balance, needing just a little bit of distraction to help us appreciate what we have instead of what has been lost. As our boys sit 10 -0, I feel like I owe them thousands in therapy and a thank you for giving me that glint back into my eye.
To some, this may sound silly, using a football team to get me out of a dark period of my life.
You know what,though?
This isn’t any ordinary football team, baby. This is the Saints.
This ain’t no ordinary city. This is New Orleans.
This isn’t just a game. It is apart of who we are.
As the holidays approach, I tip my Saints Santa hat to the boys in the Black and Gold, in appreciation for the togetherness, the glue that helps us stand call and shout:
WE ARE THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS.
Bless you boys, the happiest of holidays — Jeremy, call me.