Every week, people from all over the world tune in to watch the National Football League as the teams compete to make playoffs and be crowned national champions. The athleticism from every player and the high stakes of each game make each season as entertaining as the last. Down in New Orleans, however, the fans have more reasons to be excited because the Saints have the best fan base and community in the league.
The Saints find their identity in New Orleans. The franchise was founded in 1966, and they have played in the Superdome since 1975. For the first 39 seasons, the Saints have only made the playoffs five times, and they have only won once. Despite the lack of success, New Orleans has stuck with the team.
This loyalty could most fervently be seen throughout 2005 and 2006. According to Kennedi Landry from SB Nation, the management of the Saints considered a relocation in April 2005, but they were met with heavy criticism from their fan base. Making things even worse, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the New Orleans area in 2005 just before the beginning of the season. During the storm, New Orleans locals took shelter in the Superdome, putting the venue out of commission.
Now without a home in New Orleans, the Saints were forced to split their 2005 season between San Antonio and Baton Rouge, during which they performed considerably worse. According to ESPN, the Saints finished with 9-7, 8-8 and 8-8 records during 2002, 2003 and 2004. During 2005, the Saints finished the season 3-13. This proves New Orleans is the only home for the Saints.
Right before the 2006 season, it was announced that the Saints hired new head coach, Sean Payton, and the newly renovated Superdome opened once again. The team was now led by former San Diego Chargers quarterback, Drew Brees, a player who was marred with a potential career-ending injury during the previous season.
Following all these changes, it was clear that the fans were still there as season tickets sold-out for the first time in franchise history. Back at home and with the New Orleans community, the game resulted in a "rebirth"; the Saints beat their undefeated rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.
Following the triumphant return to the Dome, the momentum for the Saints only grew as they went into their 2009 season. They started 13-0 and went on to win the Superbowl for the first time in franchise history.
The years following 2009 have had some questionable moments. Bountygate, a teamwide scandal involving dirty hits that resulted in the season-long suspension of Sean Payton, set the team back in 2010. Despite the scandal, fans remained loyal, ticket sales kept up and the Saints kept marching. For the last nine seasons, they have made the playoffs five times.
Ups and downs have been a part of the franchise. Since the comeback of the team, there have been many, many ups and many, many downs, but that is part of being a Saints fan.
One player, in particular, has served as a symbol for the Saints' comeback. As previously mentioned, Drew Brees was picked up before the 2006 season. He was injured and potentially lost his career. As the years went on, Brees seemed to only get better. Drew Brees has broken the completion percentage record twice, has beaten every team in the league and, most notably, has become the NFL's all-time passing leader.
Off the field, Drew Brees has done just as much for the community, founding the Brees Dream Foundation which helped rebuild homes the New Orleans community after Hurricane Katrina.
The Saints are an example of the type of comeback story that everybody loves: a losing franchise and recovering city led by a quarterback recovering from a potentially career-ending injury went on to win the Superbowl. As a Saints fan, I may be biased, but the environment in New Orleans is unbeatable. Regardless of how the game turns out, the fans never really lose, and I am proud to be one.