Saints fans boycott Super Bowl with New Orleans flair

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2 February 2019, 18:04 GMT

By Jason Abbruzzese

NEW ORLEANS – Who Dat Nation has plans for Super Bowl Sunday, but they have nothing to do with the match-up between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots.

Fresh from one of the most controversial plays in American sports history – a non-call of a penalty that the New Orleans Saints would have set up to defeat the Rams in the NFC Championship Game – the city of New Orleans is preparing an almost-total boycott of the Super Bowl. Bars refuse to show the game, parades are planned and a party organized in less than two weeks is sold out.

Voodoo dolls representing NFL referees and the league commissioner are an expression for some disappointed Saints fans.Lauren Braden

"We give a party for any event," says Lauren Braden, 36, a lifelong saint fan who also sold voodoo dolls from NFL referees and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "We throw parties on the streets for funerals, so we have a different mentality than most people."

The inflated call has already become part of the New Orleans tradition, and has cost the Saints and its fans – known as Who Dat Nation because of the "Who That?" – shout – a chance to win the Super Bowl on the home ground of their hated rival, the Atlanta Falcons.

Erick Engelhardt, 43, the maker of the Big Easy Mafia, a fan club of the saints, said that the day after the match he could feel the loss in the whole city.

"It was literally deflated," said Engelhardt. "It was almost the same feeling as someone who died, the same kind of sulking, you just felt it was crazy, but you really felt it."

Many NFL teams in the United States have fanatical fanbases, but few are as inseparable from their cities as the Saints to New Orleans. For decades, the Saints were the only major professional sports team in New Orleans and fans have had little to no success for years, they even earned the unfortunate nickname "Aints" and pioneered the use of paper bags over their heads as a sign of their frustration.

A New Orleans Saints fan holds a voodoo dall as the saints pick up the Seattle Seahawks at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 30, 2016 in New Orleans.Sean Gardner / Getty Images file

But the Saints remained an important part of the city's identity, a bond best illustrated by the return of the team to his homeland, the Superdome, in the first race after Hurricane Katrina.

"We had devastations that stared at us every day and, truthfully, the saints, whether through their games, their philanthropic efforts, have just picked us up," said Braden. "It gave us something to look forward to every Sunday."

"They represent our hope, they have given us back our lives after Katrina."

And so the inhabitants of New Orleans started to mourn this year about the season of their team. A boycott? Certainly, but in the spirit of the city it would be a festive boycott.

The day after the competition, Kim Bergeron, 57, started planning a second-line parade, a New Orleans tradition created with jazz funerals, to mourn in the Saints season, but also to look forward to the next one.

Numerous second-line parades are planned, according to Nola.com, a local news website.

"This was brought together as a catharsis for anyone trying to repair their broken hearts," she said. "They represent our hope, they have given us back our lives after Katrina."

The biggest event seems to be the "Boycott Bowl", the brainchild of New Orleans residents, Brando Rizzuto, Travis Laurendine and Walter "Kango Slimm" Williams Jr. The event, which is held in a street in the city and more than two dozen local music acts, sold out of 3,000 tickets.

Laurendine, a local entrepreneur who sold tickets through his startup, ShowSparker, said that the response to the event had been almost overwhelming, with many more thousands of people on Facebook who showed interest in attending – and asked saints in other parts of the country. to create a livestream of the event.

He said he wanted to set up the event for Saints fans and raise money for the New Orleans Recreation Department, where the proceeds of the event will disappear.

"We took this opportunity to take a loss for the Saints and turn it into a victory for the future athletes, the future champions of New Orleans," Laurendine said.