MIAMI (Reuters) - The Dallas Cowboys have long been known as ‘America’s team’ but the New Orleans Saints, who triumphed as underdogs in Sunday’s Super Bowl, can now make a good claim to that title.
From President Barack Obama, to the estimated 100 million fans at home in front of televisions, to the crowd in Dolphins stadium, most Americans seemed to be celebrating the Saints’ 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
“The Saints had the emotion and the sentiment and the heartstrings of most of America on their side,” wrote Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote.
From a sporting point of view New Orleans was the club without a trophy from its previous 42 seasons — you could not get much more of an underdog than that.
However the reason so many Americans found themselves cheering for the black and gold was sympathy for the city of New Orleans and the wider region which was wrecked by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I keep thinking of the word magical, when you think about the relationship between the Saints and the Gulf Coast and the city of New Orleans,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“It was more than just a football game and more than just a football team. The hopes, dreams and struggles of that community were all reflected in that football team.
“It was a great night for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. I think they lifted one another,” he added.
Certainly the Saints’ image as a team that has embedded itself in the community has been enhanced by the actions and words of their quarterback Drew Brees who, as well as guiding them to their first Super Bowl title, has been active in a number of local reconstruction projects.
“What a special moment, it is something that you dream about as a kid. I am blessed with the opportunity to play in the NFL, to be a quarterback and to have the platform that I do, not only as a team leader but what I try to do in the community,” Brees said on Monday.
“Our victory last night was the culmination of four weeks of hard work and fighting through a lot of adversity, ups and downs and more importantly that of representing a city that has been through so much, so many struggles and hardships.
“Along the way people have asked me so many times — do you feel like it is a burden, an extra pressure to have the weight of the city on your shoulders? I said ‘no, not at all’, we all look at it as a responsibility,” added Brees.
“Our city, our fans, give us strength, we owe this to them — to Saints fans all over the country and I think we might have gained some after yesterday.”
No doubt Brees is right, the Saints have gained fans and goodwill and their status will not have been harmed either by the way in which they approached Sunday’s game.
They played positively, took risks and showed some of the spirit of adventure that Americans love so much but so rarely get from their game.
Editing by Tony Jimenez