NEW ORLEANS – People lined up by the hundreds to buy Monday’s Times-Picayune, which hollered “AMEN!” from its front page. The Saints’ victory in the American football championship Super Bowl was a prayer answered in this struggling city, and New Orleans itself seemed different for it.
Swarms of fans in black and gold greeted the players as they stepped off a chartered plane at the suburban airport, cheering them with “Who Dat!” chants. The Saints, cellar dwellers for decades, delivered not just their first Lombardi trophy but optimism for their city, a new sense that the unimaginable - better schools, less crime and even honest politicians - really is possible.
“The Saints kept hope alive in this city that better days were coming,” said Shannon Sims, a 45-year-old criminal-court administrator in the crowd. They “were the force that kept us moving forward.”
Hurricane Katrina battered the Saints and even knocked them out of town for a while, as it did to many New Orleanians. Now the team is better than ever, and its hometown fans hope to follow suit.
“It shows the rest of the country that we have resilient people and this is a city of winners,” said Dwight Henry, 46, a co-owner of the Buttermilk Drop bakery and cafe off St. Claude Avenue near the Lower 9th Ward, one of the areas hardest hit by Katrina.
“Since Katrina, we’ve been able to start successfully from the bottom,” said Henry, whose business was badly flooded. “We couldn’t go anywhere lower.”
The win was not just about football for New Orleans, said John Magill, a historian at Historic New Orleans Collection.
“We’re all being told that we’re sinking, why bother rebuild it, there was so much of that attitude,” Magill said. Thanks to the Super Bowl win, he said, Americans will view the city in the positive light the city deserves. (AP)