Editor’s Note: The following series “Who Dat? Saints and Sports in NOLA” is a week-long series curated by Emily O’Connell as a part of the Digital Research Internship Program in partnership with ViaNolaVie. The DRI Program is a Newcomb Insitute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.
From the dismal seasons of the New Orleans “‘Aints” to rallying a hurricane-stricken community to a 2009 Super Bowl, the Saints have inspired a shared passion amongst New Orleanians that is unique to the city. Now that we’re in the doldrums of the NFL offseason, let’s reflect on how the Saints have influenced New Orleans culture, and as NOLA’s enthusiasm for sports continues to grow, we can look forward to a new era as the Pelicans look to make their own unique mark on the city. No matter what team you cheer for, New Orleans’ unique engagement with sports perfectly captures the fun-loving passionate spirit of the Big Easy. Who Dat nation is a notoriously superstitious fanbase. Whether or not Popeye’s chicken can actually influence the outcome of the game (still to be determined), superstitions and rituals often add a fun, quirky element to gameday that ultimately bond us as Saints fans. After all, “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”
This article was originally published January 08, 2014.
If you watch the Bud Light ads on TV, you know that superstition is an integral part of NFL fandom.
In New Orleans, birthplace of voodoo queen Marie Laveau and home to rumors about a haunted cemetery buried beneath the Superdome, game-day superstition rises to an Olympic-level sport.
In a recent survey by Bud Light, Saints fans came in third as most superstitious fans in the nation, behind No. 1 Ravens fans and No. 2 Cardinal fans. But I think someone had a few too many brews when they were counting those results.
I knew Saints superstitious behavior outpaced the competition when NolaVie president Sharon Litwin, a Brit, for god’s sake, told me about her Saturday-evening antics at a friend’s house during the Saints-Eagles play-off. It seems that one of host Carroll Suggs’ friends has discovered that twirling her Saints scarf during major plays assures success on the field. So with mere seconds left in the 4th quarter and a potential game-winning field goal in the offing, said Ms. Suggs ran upstairs and fetched Saints scarves for all the bare-necked guests watching the nail-biter in her den. Which included a young French fellow who had never seen a pro football game before, and had no clue what was going on.
So there they were, a houseful of Americans with a bit of Brit and a soupcon of French, madly twirling their scarves in the air as Shayne Graham lined up to take the kick. “I will tell my grandchildren about this,” solemnly declared the Frenchman.
And of course it worked.
And that is the fuel for this kind of fan fire. Who knows which superstitious behavior actually carried that ball through the goal posts? Can we thank the shrimp po-boy eaten at kick-off? The I Believe candle? The Saints gnome that comes out at game time? (Don’t laugh; I have one.)
Or maybe it’s a collective effort. If ONE fan doesn’t do his usual thing, maybe it gets the universe out of whack and cosmic influences curve the kick. Or perhaps if our superstitions outweigh their superstitions, the mere weight of belief nudges the ball between the uprights.
I think it’s the latter. We believe. We have faith. And faith, as you know, can move mountains. So what chance does an 11-inch conical bit of pigskin have against all that positive thinking?
Forget the Popeye’s chicken, the red versus blue Gatorade, the scarf twirling, the special shirts and fleur de lis jewelry.
If we all collectively believe, it will happen. The Who Dat nation bonds more closely than other fans. According to the Bud Light survey, 41 percent of Saints fans spend each game with the same person, and 31 percent engage in superstitious activities with their families. Here, it’s all about community.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given our penchant for spells and spirits, NOLA fans also gravitate toward incantations. The survey reports that Saints fans are the most likely in the league to channel a certain saying, cheer or song for a win. If you’ve joined in the pre-game Who Dat chant originated by the Saints in the Dome, you know how strongly it focuses the energy.
So perhaps we should come up with a universal mantra, chanted at a designated universal moment in front of our TV sets. Or everyone could sing “Get Crunk” together as, say, the coin is tossed.
As the ad says, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.
By the way, forget what I said about jettisoning the Popeye’s. Just to be sure, I’m stocking up on three-piece dinners with red beans and rice on Saturday.