The Saints, and our civic love affair

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by  Clay A. Smith

There's something inherently organic and genuine about New Orleans' love affair with the Saints. Its transcendental and at times can be extraordinarily profound. It's unpretentious and unique, and its for those reasons that its able to tap into the hopeless romantic in all of us, that wants so desperately to believe in miracles. Its for those reasons that it can't be captured in text or duplicated by any sort of reasonable facsimile. In a town that's never needed a reason to celebrate more than it does right now,  the Saints are a respite, a distraction, but more importantly a reminder of what this city is capable of when it decides to come together.

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For more than four decades devout "Who Dats" have tithed in vein to the patron Saints of futility, only to have their faith in a star crossed franchise rewarded with years of insufferable agony. Unguarded in their zeal, their love is unconditional. They've been there for the "Aints," they've weathered Katrina, and not even brown paper bags could mask their disappointment. Its an odd fraternity, one whose beginnings are rooted more heavily in a broad sense of mutual frustration than anything else.

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Year after year they've watched the Lambardi presentation on confetti covered fields and wondered if their time would ever come. Well this was their time. This was their year. Led by a quarterback who was never suppose to play football again (Drew Brees) and a colorful ensemble of outcasts, under achievers, and lovable losers, the Saints galvanized their city, and maybe even their country, in what would be one of the most captivating seasons ever.

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In "un-Saintly" fashion they won their first thirteen games, two in unbelievable comebacks in Washington and Miami, and two against Super Bowl champs Eli Manning and Tom Brady. A run that would extend well into the playoffs where they beat three first ballot Hall of Fame signal callers in succession- including Krypton's favorite son (Peyton Manning) in the most watched television event ever.

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Super Bowl XLIV had "The Full Monty"- unlikely heroes like: Lance Moore and his controversial tumbling act on a huge two point conversion, Garrett Hartley and his Super Bowl record three  40+ yard field goals, Thomas Morstead's perfectly executed on sides kick and Chris Reis' determined recovery in the longest scrum ever, and lets not forget Tracy Porter's game clinching interception return. Not to mention a quarterback duel for the ages(Manning vs Brees) that ended up tying the record for biggest comeback in a Super Bowl(10 pts) and some of the most gutsiest play calling in Super Bowl history on the part of  Sean Payton. On perhaps the biggest stage in sports, the Saints out shined football's biggest star (Manning) in a game that seemed to have more at stake than just a trophy.

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You need only look into the joy filled faces of a city blanketed in black and gold regalia, to begin to quantify what Super Bowl XLIV meant the city. Some moments are far too precious to be cheapened by hyperbole. Super Bowl XLIV was without question one of them. Simply put, it was more than just a game. It was overjoyed fans writhing in tearful jubilation. It was strangers hugging strangers, uninhibited by prejudice. If ever there were questions about the impact of sports, their ability to inspire, or bring out the best in us,  they were all answered this past Sunday when for the first time ever the city New Orleans was officialy crowned champions.

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