By the Way

The Saints are winners, even when they’re losing

New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons players form a unity demonstration on the field before an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons players form a unity demonstration on the field before an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. AP

It had all of the pageantry and romanticism of a Shakespearean production, but alas, it would end on a sour note for many.

Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the reopening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the Saints faced arch rivals the Atlanta Falcons in the Dome — it was the first game on home turf for the Saints since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The Saints and Falcons were both 2-0 heading into the 2006 game, which the Saints won 23-3.

Steve Gleason the hero

About 90 seconds into the game, Saints safety Steve Gleason blocked a point that was returned for a touchdown. And just like that, the Saints were back. It was the first time since the storm that people on the Gulf Coast had something to celebrate.

The rock bands U2 and Green Day kicked off the return to the Dome with a performance of the punk rock song “The Saints are Coming” by The Skids. While many may not associate punk rock with New Orleans, the song was a perfect fit. When it comes to punk rock sensibility and attitude, New Orleans is always proudly giving the rest of the world the middle finger. “The Saints are Coming” was the city’s middle finger to Hurricane Katrina.

Much has changed in the 10 years since the “rebirth” game. The city has recovered well from the storm, reinventing itself as a “food city” in ways that surpass what it used to be.

The Gulf Coast as a whole continues to recover.

But Gleason’s life is completely different than it was during the 2006 game against the Falcons. In 2011, during the prime of his life, he was diagnosed with debilitating ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Today, he is the city’s hero — he gave them something to believe in when they needed it the most and his brave battle with his disease has made him even more beloved.

Winning while the Saints are losing

On Monday, the Saints just couldn’t get it going. Everything seemed off from the opening play and they ended up losing the historic game 45-32 to the Falcons.

Monday night’s loss, however, could not change how much people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast love the Saints. We’ve weathered the storms of losing before.

The Saints will always be winners to us. This was proven when the team joined hands with the Falcons on the field after Irma Thomas’ rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

I thought a lot about the 2006 Falcons game and how much things have changed as I sat in the Dome on Monday night. I always love going to the Dome with my brother-in-law. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth.

I wasn't at the game in 2006. I watched it on TV in my room at TNT Ranch, a treatment center for homeless addicts and alcoholics in Gulfport. Bad decision making had taken its toll on my life.

I got home about 12 a.m. Tuesday and the loss to the Falcons was becoming a distant memory. I kissed my baby boy as he slept in his crib and pulled the covers over my wife so she wouldn’t get cold. I drifted off to sleep because I had to get up early to go to my job where people depend on me.

I guess a lot has changed in 10 years.

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