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When dat? We’re ready for some football

footballTwo months.

Nine weeks.

Sixty-two days.

To be exact: In 60 days-23 hours-54 minutes (as this was written) the New Orleans Saints will begin their 2013 season, starting against arch rivals the Atlanta Falcons. However you choose to measure it, there is just way too much time until kick-off.

You don’t have to be from New Orleans, or even a Saints fan, to know that the Saints & Falcons are the epitome of nemesis. If you don’t follow football or sports whatsoever, maybe you don’t know this, but I’m here to tell you: We Black & Gold faithful do not like the Atlanta Falcons, and like is putting it nicely. In fact, Saints fans have despised this division rival for so long that calling the team by its official NFL name is very uncommon.

In New Orleans, if you’re a Falcon, you’re a dirty bird.

From that description alone, you’d assume that New Orleans Saints fans are full hate and vitriol; this could be no further from the truth. We Saints fans are products of both our Southern heritage and New Orleans culture. Therefore, we embrace our opponents’ fans with open arms – even Falcons fans.

If you’re in town for a game in our Superdome, expect to be treated like family. In New Orleans, we love our extended football family, team colors aside.

On Friday, we’ll tell you where to have dinner; we’ll probably even show you the way. If we don’t have time to take you there, we’ll most certainly make time for drinks after. On Saturday morning, we’ll tell you not to wait in the line forming outside Café du Monde: The sign says “Please Seat Yourself.” We’ll also implore you to forgo Bourbon Street, but give you plenty of great options to get your New Orleans nightlife fix.

For live music, head over to Frenchmen. For mixology and specialty cocktails, Bar Tonique, Cure, and Twelve Mile Limit are great neighborhood bars. Great beer and good company? The Bulldog is your place. If you’re looking for brunch before the game, Saints fans will guide you out of the throng of tourists in the French Quarter and take you to Elizabeth’s in the Bywater. Our Southern hospitality will more than happily craft a great New Orleans weekend for you, until 12 noon on Sunday.

Come kick-off, even the most reverent New Orleanians tend to get a little raucous. I grew up a Saints fan, so I know. I have been watching the Saints play (lose) ever since I can remember. From Manning to Brees, Jackson to Vilma, Andersen to Morstead, Saints names have been a mainstay in my household, thanks to the most unlikely of family members: my grandmother. Granny is a diehard sports enthusiast, but nothing comes close to her Saints.

During the 2009 season, the Saints set out to repent for the sins of the previous 46 years of ineptitude. When Garrett Hartley’s field goal sailed through the uprights to send the Saints to the Super Bowl, I cried. All right, I didn’t just cry; I wept, bawled, sobbed, screamed, and laughed all at once. I immediately called Granny. There is no other person with whom I would have wanted to share this moment in Black and Gold history. On the other end of the line, my grandmother was crying & laughing along with me.

“We did it!! We did it!!” we shouted to each other. Lost in the moment, I said, “We are going to the f-ing Super Bowl!” to my grandmother — and she said it right back to me. That’s how much we – every single New Orleans Saints fan – love our team.

A few weeks later, when the Saints won the Super Bowl, naturally Granny was the first person I called. Like the rest of the Who Dat Nation, we couldn’t believe it. The feeling of being the champion was not reserved for players and coaches; no, that feeling pulses through every vein, heart, mind, soul, drum, brass band, jazz quartet, street performer, priest, nun, sinner, saint, crawfish, po-boy, gumbo, jambalaya, man, woman, child in all of southern Louisiana.

Here in New Orleans, we eat, sleep, breathe, and bleed Back and Gold. We’ll welcome you to our city with the same ferocious passion, but come Sunday ….

Who Dat.


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