It’s still summer but even in New Orleans,where it feels like 103°, they’re already playing football.
“Home Team“— the New York Times Bestseller written by Sean Payton and Ellis Henican (and available now in paperback)—is the inspirational story of a city recovering from the devastation of Katrina and the unlikely journey of the Saints to the Superbowl.
Read a little of the incredible story:
“WHEN THEY REALLY LOVE you in New Orleans, they have their own unique ways of saying so. If a great trumpet player dies, people don’t get all mournful. They dance in the streets with brightly colored umbrellas, then slide the dearly departed into a concrete tomb a couple of feet off the ground.
Well, I’m not ready for my own jazz funeral. Not yet. But I’m pretty sure I have now experienced the next-best thing: riding down St. Charles Avenue on a giant Mardi Gras float, parading with a bunch of guys I love and admire and some of the hottest brass bands on Earth while hundreds of thousands of appreciative people yell, clap, cheer, wave signs, weep openly and call out our names.
They were cheering for their team.
They were cheering for their city.
They were cheering for themselves.
And we were cheering right back at them.
How many people turned out for the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Victory Parade? Nobody knows for certain. Attendance isn’t taken at Mardi Gras parades. Eight hundred thousand? The media estimates went as high as a million. Either way, that’s really saying something in a city whose official population is in the mid-300,000s, down a quarter since Hurricane Katrina, a metro area of a million and low change. Basically, nobody stayed home.
New Orleans may not be the swiftest when it comes to amassing Super Bowl victories. But let me tell you: This city knows how to throw a parade. It was hard to imagine anything like this in any other city, this category 5 outpouring of gratitude and love. Babies in tiny Saints hats, giggling and waving. Grown women shouting the universal Saints hello: “Who dat? Who dat?” Burly men hugging one another. Kids rushing up for autographs. One old man in a Deuce McAllister jersey was standing by a blue police barricade on Howard Avenue, tears running down his face. Three Catholic nuns at Canal and Baronne were so ecstatic they were jumping up and down.
These were the people we’d been playing for—people who’d lost so much and struggled so valiantly, literally crying tears of joy. They’d lived though unthinkable hardship: losing their homes, being scattered across the country, some of them seeing their relatives drown. They came from every neighborhood and every background. Relative newcomers and people whose families have been in Louisiana for centuries. Black people. White people. People in such elaborate costumes, you couldn’t tell who they vere. All of them were united in triumph now.
The people of this region lived through the most devastating natural disaster in American history. Eighty percent of their city was flooded when the levees broke. They’d lost their jobs. People they’d known, people they loved had been forced to leave and weren’t coming back. Government had failed them at every level. The media had grown bored and moved on. And yet these people still had not lost their will to celebrate. Their spirit made me care deeply about a place I had barely known before. Their courage inspired a struggling football team all the way to the Super Bowl.”