"Pigs have flown. Hell has frozen over. The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl."
That is the saying of Saints radio announcer Jim Henderson after Garrett Hartley kicked the game-winning field goal in the NFC Championship Game to send New Orleans to its first Super Bowl in franchise history.
And folks, those words could not have been said any better.
After all, it was not too long ago that New Orleans was a place of death and chaos. Hurricane Katrina became a national symbol for destruction and disaster. 2005 was the year that New Orleans would never forget. Its citizens and residents are still trying to rebuild and reconstruct the life that once was.
The Superdome, the arena where the Saints play their home games, was once tethered and torn into ruins. Now, it has become a safe haven for Saints fans, and in some regards, the city of New Orleans. It was where the Saints opened up again during the 2006 season and defeated the Atlanta Falcons in an emotional victory.
It was where the Saints defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2006-07 postseason, giving hope to all of their fans that a Super Bowl birth was one step away.
Even though it was a place to store dead bodies and homeless families during the hurricane, it persevered and lived on.
That is why the Saints are so much like their fans and the citizens of New Orleans. They never give up. They never surrender to hopelessness and defeat. When the Minnesota Vikings were driving down the field near the end of regulation, Brett Favre had a chance to complete a pass that would set up the Vikings in field goal range, in order to send the team to their fifth Super Bowl.
However, Darren Sharper intercepted Favre, and unbelievably, the Saints got out of yet another jam. The Vikings were able to move the football up and down the Saints defense for most of the game, but six turnovers killed Minnesota, and it was because of how the Saints defense attacked the Vikings. The Saints simply never gave up.
Maybe this season might be fate. Maybe the "star-crossed" franchise is no longer "star-crossed". Maybe the football Gods are looking down and are showing some pity on the Saints fans, in that instead of all of the bounces going against them, they are now going for them.
Or maybe it isn't pity. Maybe it is just a reward. A reward for staying courageous and loving to your team. A reward for rooting for your Saints during the years of futility and embarrassment.
From the 'Aints, to John Carney, to Mike Ditka, and "Hakim Drops the Ball!". From Hurricane Katrina, to the NFC Championship game loss to Chicago. From 2007 and 2008 disappointments, to not being 16-0 this season, Saints fans have had their ups and downs. It might be their time. Who knows? Only the Indianapolis Colts stand in the way of a Vince Lombardi trophy.
The Super Bowl is a cherished, special game to play in. I doubt you will find a team, and a fan base, that will celebrate this event any better than the New Orleans Saints.
The effects and events after Hurricane Katrina were hell. For at least two more weeks, and maybe for the rest of New Orleans history, that hell has indeed frozen over.
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