Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NFL Fanhouse: America's Team? It's the Saints Now [Terence Moore]

From Terence Moore of NFL Fanhouse:

Go ahead, because this is the right thing to do: You should spend the rest of the NFL season hugging whatever team you traditionally love, but you should kiss the New Orleans Saints in the shadows.

If you prefer to do so in the sunshine, that's fine, too.

The Saints have replaced the folks with stars on their helmets as America's Team. In case you weren't paying attention, Hurricane Katrina blew this franchise into the hearts of all those who had them. That unofficially happened on Sept. 25, 2006, the team's first home game back in New Orleans -- a Monday night when, just like this Monday night, the roof of the Superdome threatened to explode because of the noise generated by inside, as opposed to the wind outside it.

A game that was also against the Falcons. And that, too, was a victory for the Saints, along the way to their first and only NFC championship game.

Get the picture in black, old gold and white? When you cheer for the Saints, you're still cheering for this city, which has come a long ways since water nearly drowned its existence, but it remains a sometimes-ugly work in progress.

So the majority of the citizens do what they've done forever in New Orleans -- and that is, they live through their NFL franchise. Well, they mostly die with it. But after decades of gasping, it has a strong heartbeat seven games into this season.

In fact, given the Saints' rise to an unblemished record after a 35-27 victory over Atlanta, with the home team excelling before a deliriously loud gathering screaming "Who dat?," and with all of those watching on national television still recalling the death, destruction and despair that smothered these parts four years ago after that hurricane ...

Given all of that ...

Well, who knows what this team might accomplish this season?

Yeah, we know. These are the Saints. A gifted bunch of Saints, with explosive players throughout their offense and with a defense that terrorizes foes at crucial times, but the Saints nonetheless. In the end, they'll likely continue to sit with the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams never to reach a Super Bowl.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't pull for the Saints, because they are playing another season for themselves and everybody else.

Aren't they?

"I don't know. I mean, we're always playing for the city, because our fans are so great," said Saints safety Darren Sharper, in his 13th NFL season. Then he added, "A couple of years ago, it was a different situation, especially coming off of Katrina. There was a lot more emotion into it back then, but now, we're just trying to win."

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