Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Orleans Saints

All season, the Saints have been at the heart of New Orleans' revival from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Now, the franchise best known for four decades of failure is one win away from playing in the Superbowl in February.

There has always been something unique about the Saints and New Orleans.

For the Saints' first 39 years, it was more of a tortured affair. The people of New Orleans adored them, and the Saints found various ways to disappoint.

After Katrina's destruction, it seemed as if the Saints would break New Orleans' heart again. Forced to flee to San Antonio, many feared the team would stay there.

Instead, the Saints came back, and have given everyone here reason to hope.

First it was mostly symbolic, a sign the city could rebuild and resemble its old self. But as the team once mocked as the 'Aints piled up the wins, it became so much more.

"With everything that's gone on here … with how much recovery we still have to go, this is a bright spot," said head coach Sean Payton, who high-fived a line of fans when he arrived at the Superdome.

Look around New Orleans, and there's plenty to depress and divide. Homes that are still abandoned. French Quarter streets that are filling up, but aren't nearly as crazy as they once were. A rash of murders that is as frightening as it stunning.

But instead of coming apart, New Orleans pulled together behind the one thing everyone can believe in.

"This has really been the rebirth of New Orleans."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws a pass during the fourth quarter of their NFC Divisional NFL playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans, January 13, 2007.

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