The day (and night) New Orleans took Lombardi

2010 February 9
by Don Hammack

It’s hard to put into words what happened Sunday. As a long-time Saints fan, I still find it hard to believe what happened in Miami, but I’ll try to explain using a day and long night in New Orleans pre-celebrating, watching the game and celebrating for real. O, the celebration …

Driving in with good buddy George, we saw signs of what Katrina wrought on us all. They’re tearing down the westbound lanes of the old twin spans, with the new bridge partially in service already. But enough of the downer stuff, Sunday was a day to party.

George, a native New Orleanian, got us a primo, free parking spot in the quarter. We walked to St. Louis Cathedral and immediately saw a little parade getting started beside Jackson Square. That’s where we heard our first “Who Dat!”.

Mass was sprinkled with Saints winning the Super Bowl references. Monsignor Kern welcomed a packed house, filled with lots of lots of black-and-gold jerseys, Saints sweatshirts and T-shirts, for the 9 a.m. service (yeah, I worked until midnight Saturday, then was up at 6, leaving George’s at 7 to make Mass), saying he appreciated everyone being there to pray for “what certainly will be a Saints victory.” He said he also expected everyone back next Sunday for prayers of thanksgiving. The monsignor said the Holy Father had given them special dispensation to depart from the called-for green vestments and they were wearing black and gold. He said they’d also been given permission to fly the Saints flag out front instead of the papal colors.

The large crowd created a little bit of a traffic jam during communion, but everybody snaked their way through the intertwined lines and made it through. The Monsignor finished Mass, with the recessional hymn ended with a baroque-tinged “When the Saints Go Marching In” riff by the coolest church organist in the world. During that jam, we heard a cheer from the back.

Monsignor Kern had taken off his cassock to reveal his Brees jersey. That was by far the least sacrilegious use of Brees’s name and likeness for the day.

Sunday was the day after the city’s mayoral election, and our first bar of the day, Harry’s Corner, where their opinion of the outgoing mayor was clear.

We saw a beautiful lady in her finest Saints garb, the first of many homemade outfits we’d see during the day. (My dark bar photography skills do not do justice to the beadwork and finery she’d crafted.)

Pat and the lovely Suzy had joined us for Mass, and we took a Bloody Mary (yes, 10:30 Bloody Marys is how NOLA rolls) for the road for lunch. I punched a New Orleans ticket that I’d somehow never punched before …

We were second in line at about 10:40 for the 11 o’clock opening. We saw the first of a million dogs …

… and before the restaurant opened, the line had gotten long.

Port of Call means two things: great hamburgers and, um, interesting drinks. Yes to both, please. The burger was too delicious to take pictures of, and the I’m pretty sure there was a potato under the biggest scoop of sour cream I’d ever seen. (Please don’t tell our trainer about that.) And the Neptune’s Monsoon was delightful. I didn’t get to see the patented six-bottle simultaneous pour because the crowd was too thick around the bar already.

Then, off to the Quarter. We saw Mohawk Brees …

… an alligator chomping on Peyton Manning …

… inspirational signs …

… and insulting signs (I’m assuming the spelling of “BUTT” is a reference to Peyton’s long-ago misstep at Tennessee) …

… and there’s proof that I was there.

Sunday was the Krewe of Barkus parade, so there were tons of dogs out in costume. This was, far and away, our favorite. It’s a good thing that dogs can’t hire lawyers, or else this owner would owe any fortune he might have for theft of dignity.

They said he was dressed as a Saintsation. I’ll let feminsts and men who are pigs argue that editorial statement among themselves.

It was still early afternoon, but Pat and I found ourselves in the gutter already …

… much to the delight of this little one.

A guy in the parade had a New Orleans Top 10 sign:
1. Black and Gold, Baby!
2. We have the best parades.
3. Second lines.
4. Beautiful homes
5. The Mardi Gras Indians.
and …

There were more beautiful ladies …

… and a beautiful old martyred lady, Joan of Arc, supporting the Saints.

We also found the most dedicated New Orleans Saints fans.

See the ol’ timey Saints helmets. See the containers under them? Urns. Ashes. Fans.

They hang out at Molly’s at the Market, where we also saw Coach Sean Payton before he caught the Concorde down to Miami.

I think the cocktail in his hand was courage juice for his onside kick.

(Molly’s was also the place I saw what I considered the first real omen portending Saints victory. The line for the women’s room had one, maybe two in it; the men’s line was 10 or 12 deep. The world turned upside down. Heck, that might be a sign of the apocalypse.)

There were more reminders of Katrina …

… and then the sacrilege …

… and the “real” thing …

I mean the Saints’ savior, not the real Savior. I didn’t get a shot from close up, but dude looked like Drew.

I don’t have any photos from the game. We went back to the hotel to watch the game. We knew we’d have beer, snacks and, most importantly, a clean restroom.

The five other people in the room will never believe that I was less crazy than watching the NFC championship game with Carla in our living room, but I swear I was. Carla’s stuck with me for the rest of our lives; the friends might bail on me if I did all the stuff I did two weeks prior.

The highlights:

  • A quiet worry-filled first quarter.
  • Some of the best hotel room coaching you’ll ever hear for the four-down failure at the Colts goal-line, followed by what at first looked like questionable clock management punctuated by a morale-lifting Garrett “Money” Hartley field goal.
  • The best run of the night, George’s halftime gallop to Krystals just down the street for 20 gut bombs. Lucky gut bombs, my friends. When fortunes waned in the second half, I threw myself on the remaining grenades and turned the tide single-handedly.
  • The Onside Kick, or Where Sean Payton Sealed New Orleans Immortality. This may have been my most unhinged, when my lip-reading eyes found the official on the far right side of the pile first say “White ball,” several seconds before the referee made it official, seconds filled by me jumping up and down screaming, “He said white ball! He said white ball!”
  • Shortly thereafter, I tweaked my calf muscle helping escort Pierre Thomas into the end zone on his screen pass run. I sprinted across the hotel room as he was sprinting in. I woulda laid out any Colts fan in the room, too.
  • There was the commercial spent on bended knees, waiting to see if Payton had challenged the two-point conversion call.
  • There was sheer pandemonium when Tracy Porter, I’ll say it again, Tracy Porter picked off that Manning pass and returned it for a touchdown.
  • And there was great relief when the Colts’ fourth-down attempt failed at the Saints goal-line, followed immediately by the breaking-out of the ceremonial heater.
  • Forty-some-odd seconds later, I opened the door into the hotel hallway and saw the masses pouring out of rooms heading for the elevator. We joined them after one last bathroom break, waiting on a couple elevator cars to come before finally finding one with enough room for us and another room to overstuff. I’ve never been more relieved as I was for an elevator to reach the bottom safely, what with the bouncing and shouting and celebrating and rapping.

    Here’s one picture of the opening minute or so of our time on Bourbon Street when there was actually room to move and think.

    After that, we were pretty much pushed against the hotel wall, trying to make our way to the corner to get over to Royal.

    We eventually made it, many high-fives and Who Dats to strangers laters. We wound up in the Carousel Bar at the famed Hotel Monteleone.

    We found some room there, a friendly waitress who took away my cigar and I was able to rally with some other friends.

    Former Sun Herald co-worker Richard:

    And my friends Tammy and Trice, along with her cousin, John:

    We also found Breesus Christ, a jolly man issuing special dispensations who had a handler trying to keep away the riff-raff, again not exactly what Jesus stands for, forgive us.

    After a bit, we decided to trek across the Quarter heading back to Molly’s. Royal was much calmer, like Bourbon on a normal weekend night, so way more crowded than normal but still navigable. There were random musical groups attracting dancing fans …

    … a flying pig …

    … and a celebrating statue behind St. Louis Cathedral.

    The crowds thinned out as we left the Cathedral area, but when we got back down on Decatur at Molly’s, there was another huge crowd of folks in a whole ‘nother party.

    There was even a woman standing on a parked car twirling these big balls of fire from chains off each hand.

    Her fire-globes (not a euphemism) were coming what looked like inches from the neighboring building’s sidewalk overhang, but the Saints kept everybody safe. Even the brass band that tried to get into Molly’s.

    We stayed out of the madhouse on the way back to the hotel, stopping at Tujague’s for a quiet drink in the bar before seeing another crowd of people with an impromptu band.

    I smelled pizza on the way back and Tammy, Trice and I stopped for a pie. No photos, which was a theme for me and food. You put food down in front of me and it gets eaten.

    We said our goodbyes and I was in the room and in bed, I mean on the floor, by 2 o’clock. Somehow, I was back away at 7, as our room came to live earlier than I would have ever imagined. For Saturday and Sunday night, with a late-night work shift and the celebration, I totalled nine hours of sleep. I walked a foot off the ground Monday, so I guess it didn’t really matter.

    The Times-Picayune was selling newspapers out of the back of a pick-up truck on Canal.

    We were at Cafe du Monde just in time to beat the rush. Again, no picture of food, just the aftermath.

    As we were leaving, there was a three-piece band setting up in front of the cafe. I would have liked to have heard this “backstage” prayer.

    They might have mentioned Buddy D. and all the departed Saints fans who didn’t get to see the game from this plane.

    We’ve waited a long time for this day, and it’s sweeter than anybody could have imagined. The victory parade is still going on right now. And I’m not sure it will end until the next time the Superdome is in use for the Black and Gold.

    6 Responses leave one →
    1. 2010 February 10
      John permalink

      Don, I’m going to send this to Patty, Kristin, my brother, my cousins in Chicago, and WGN Radio. This is a keeper for anyone who loves the Saints and New Orleans.

    2. 2010 February 10
      Clark Derbigny permalink

      Don,

      What a very good piece. I really enjoyed it. WHO DAT!!!

    3. 2010 February 15
      Ben Castle permalink

      Don:

      Good job. Nice to see that your time on the dark side has not dimmed your enthusiasm for telling a good story. But you’re a much braver man than I. I stayed as far away from the Quarter as possible. I watched the game on the West Bank — in the next parish over — and it was pretty insane over there. Horns honking, fireworks blooming, yelling. And hours after the game, the line for the toll bridge looked like a major hurricane evacuation. Guess West Bankers (but not I) wanted to party in the Quarter, too. Party on, Don.

    4. 2010 April 25
      Michele Christian permalink

      Yea, I’m a day late and a dollar short! I seldom get on the computer! I got goose bumps reading your play by play of the day! would have loved to have been in NO on Superbowl Sun not Miami! Unfortunately, I had to settle for a typical sp party at the house in Alabama! We had fun but not the fun a Saints fan would have had with other Saints fans! People don’t understand unless they grew up watching the Saints play! Holla at the Saints! Love ya ..mean it!

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