For football fans in the Big Easy and beyond, "Who Dat" is more than just a chant -- it's a way of life! The community involvement and diehard loyalty of their fanbase really set the New Orleans Saints apart.
"N.O. Goes Pro!" read the newspaper headlines on November 1, 1966, when it was announced that the city would get its own NFL franchise. The team was branded the Saints after the popular jazz tune and in light of New Orleans' strong Catholic heritage -- making it particularly appropriate that the news was delivered on All Saints Day.
The Saints went marching in to their first regular-season game at Tulane Stadium and started off their career with a bang. Wasting no time at all, running back John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff for a 94-yard touchdown. They finished off the season 3-11, tying the record for the most wins by a first-year expansion team.
Despite the strong start, it took the Saints a while to become solidly successful. They spent the next several decades slowly inching their way up from the bottom of the pack. By 1985, still yet to advance to the playoffs or finish a season with a winning record, the team was sold and its new owner appointed Jim Mora as head coach.
Mora quickly captured attention with his frank attitude. After narrowly losing to the San Francisco 49ers in 1987, he delivered what would become known as his famous "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" speech, bluntly telling the press that the Saints just weren't good enough yet to beat their opponents. "'Could've, would've, should've' is the difference in what I'm talking about," he said. "The good teams don't come in and say 'could've.' They get it done!"
But soon enough, the Saints were getting it done. They turned around and delivered nine consecutive victories, logging their first-ever winning season and first playoffs appearance. The team ended up going seven seasons straight without having another losing record. Clearly, they finally stopped saying "coulda, woulda, shoulda" and started playing to their potential. The squad eventually clinched the league's top prize in 2010, beating the Indianapolis Colts in their first Super Bowl game.
The Saints' success played a major role in revitalizing the city after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The team established a relief fund to provide financial support for victims and rebuilding efforts, and quarterback Drew Brees went above and beyond in his involvement with the recovery. But just as important as the monetary aid was the sense of hope and pride the Saints helped return to the Crescent City. Residents rallied around their team as never before and celebrated every success as a victory for all of New Orleans.
Any member of Who Dat Nation will tell you that rooting for the Saints is about so much more than just football -- it's about resilience, determination, and of course, letting les bon temps rouler!