The New Orleans Saints played their first home game of the 2006 season on Monday, and now lead the NFC South division after manhandling the Atlanta Falcons 23-3 for their first win on Monday Night Football since 1993. This is significant, not because it was a match-up of two 2-0 teams in the NFC South division, but because it was the Saints’ first game at the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina.
The events that the Saints, the NFL and New Orleans have gone through together have been unbelievable, both for good reasons and for bad ones. First, the Saints played all of their home games in 2005 in Baton Rouge or San Antonio because the Superdome was shelter for close to 3,000 victims of Katrina. Second, the Superdome, which is a more glorified Olympic Stadium, to put it in perspective, had a broken roof due to the hurricane, just one of several infrastructure problems the building had. Then, there were talks that San Antonio was making major attempts to lure the Saints away from their damaged home, taking away one of the only things the city had going for it.
At the NFL Draft this June, the Saints held the second overall selection, right after the Houston Texans. There was no doubt who the biggest star was on draft day. Reggie Bush, coming out of the University of Southern California was the showstopper. He’s the type of player who could single-handedly change the game in the blink of an eye. But, there was a twist. The Texans announced the night before the draft that they were passing up Bush to take defensive end Mario Williams from North Carolina State. That left Bush going to New Orleans. Think of the irony. A team from Texas passes on a guy named Bush so that he can help a city that a Texan named Bush was under scrutiny for not helping.
To say that Reggie Bush did not have an effect on the Saints and the city of New Orleans would be so wrong. There would be no words to explain how wrong you are. Shortly after drafting Bush, the Saints signed quarterback Drew Brees, Pro Bowler (football’s all-star) who was let go by his former team the San Diego Chargers because he had to undergo shoulder surgery in the off-season.
Then, shortly after those announcements, the federal and state governments committed $180 million (US) to a new roof and to fix some lingering problems with the Superdome. Both Brees and Bush (Reggie, that is) wanted to be part of the rebuilding process in New Orleans and be a part of the long-term solutions for the Saints, and the city. Brees bought a house in the city, while Bush gave money out of his pocket to help fix major problems in the city.
Oh, and the rumours about the team moving? Forget it. Owner Tom Benson refused a $1 billion offer to sell the team to a Canadian who wanted “no strings attached,” meaning he would be able to move the team wherever he wanted. Why did Benson keep the team despite the uncertainty surrounding the city of New Orleans? Because, for the first time in team history, every single seat in the Superdome is a season ticket. There are no single-game tickets, no day-of-game tickets. If you don’t have season tickets, you won’t have the chance to buy one. Imagine. The city is still being rebuilt. Major parts of the city are still empty spaces where homes once were, yet the city is rallying around the Saints, their Saints.
The city still has a lot of recovering to do, and the people are still struggling, but the Saints and football are helping them cope. Sports were one of the rallying points in the United States after 9/11 and they are once again helping out a city in need.
No matter the wins or losses they put together this season, Brees, Bush, Benson and all the other players and staff wearing black and gold are Saints. For the people of New Orleans, they are Saints not only by uniform but also in the true meaning of the word.
A-lou-ette, silly a-lou-ette
Please tell me that Don Matthews will not be the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes any longer. It seems to me, since last year when he went for the two-point conversion instead of going for the extra point and the tie in Vancouver, that he is trying to see how many risks he can take and still win.
I also wouldn’t mind seeing Jesse Palmer start at some point this season, or at the very least see that Anthony Calvillo no longer calls his own plays. It seems like this team has become very full of themselves. If that includes losing six straight games to make winning the CFL Eastern Division a harder task to accomplish, it probably would be a good time to start winning again.