The symbolism is moving and obvious. The city of New Orleans, devastated by Hurricane Katrina, has persevered because of citizens determined to rebuild. The team of New Orleans, whose stadium once housed families displaced by the storm, has followed on a magical 13-0 run by earning a berth in sports' biggest game: The Super Bowl.
This connection has made New Orleans the irresistible heroes heading into the game. Many sportswriters have written sympathetic stories about the Saints inspiring their home city. (This piece by ESPN's Wright Thompson sets the gold standard.) And now, with the team one win away from its first NFL title, he entire country is bleeding black and gold. President Obama is no exception--he's breached his policy of sports impartiality to support the new America's Team.
One thousand words isn't enough to measure the true impact of the Saints' fairy-tale season. Unless, of course, you're a sports columnist with a blank page and a tear in your eye.
- Carville: Jump on the Bandwagon ESPN smartly avoided making the Saints-Katrina comparison itself, bringing in famed New Orleans resident and Democratic political strategist James Carville to write a guest op-ed. "To say the city is now buzzing would be a gross understatement," said the Ragin' Cajun'. "For so long, the Saints organization has been a metaphor for all the ills of New Orleans -- always trying to get over the hump but continually falling a little bit short; a team and a city short on luck. [...] But during this Super Bowl run, the team has become a symbol for not only what can be but also what is. New Orleans is moving. She's recovering." Carville asks one thing of the American people: "remember why New Orleans was so important to the fabric of our country and why you cheer for underdogs and comebacks."
- Saints Are America's Team "Maybe what I do believe in this week only is gris-gris, which around some parts of N'Awlins is what they call magic," writes a breathless Greg Cote at the Miami Herald. "The Saints are America's Team right now, except to the horseshoe set in and around Indianapolis. And should be." As for the Saints' connection with their city, he argues "there is no team/city bond like this anywhere in the NFL."
- Replenishing a City The New York Times' Campbell Robertson describes the groundswell of emotion on every New Orleans street. "The Saints’ win on Sunday night, a victory that sends them to the Super Bowl for the first time, unleashed a raucous, trombone-blaring, grown-man-weeping, stranger-hugging frenzy," he says. "In a city that has been associated over the last four and a half years with divisiveness and suffering, the delirium over the Saints is pretty much unanimous."
- Oh, Why Not? Go Saints! At Deadspin, sports storylines that get this much overplay usually become fodder for "cliche" columns. But even a tongue-in-cheek Dashiell Bennett can't hide his support for New Orleans, despite his sarcastic tone. "The most pathetic town in this whole pathetic country has a winning football team, and gosh darn it, wouldn't it be swell if we all had something to be happy about for five lousy minutes," he pines. "Remember when you used to be able to cheer for something and not feel like a schmuck?"