New Orleans' 'Who Dat?' Nation Riding High After Super Bowl Win

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The New Orleans Saints made history with Sunday with both their first Super Bowl appearance and win. The team entered walked onto the field as the perceived underdog but triumphed to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17in a spirited game and walked away with the NFL season title. Host Michel Martin gets reaction from proud New Orleans-native Gralen Banks, who predicted the win last week on the program and shared his affection for the Saints.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, wedding season will be here before you know it. So, we caught up early with one of the most prolific wedding singers in the nation's capital. We talked to him about how he got started, and he will share some of his secrets to having a great wedding reception. That's in just a few minutes.

But first, who would have believed that the Who Dat Nation could bring home the Lombardi trophy? The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 31 to 17. Saints quarterback and MVP Drew Brees made clear just how much the win mattered.

Mr. DREW BREES (Quarterback, New Orleans Saints): You know, four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening? You know, when 85 percent of the city was under water, you know, most people not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back - or if the organization of the team would ever come back. We just all looked at one another and said, you know, we're going to rebuild together. And this is the culmination of all that belief and that faith.

MARTIN: Sorry, Colts fans, we have to talk about the game and what the victory means for a city still in recovery. So we've called, once again, New Orleans resident and frequent guest on our program, Gralen Banks. Welcome back. Congratulations.

Mr. GRALEN BANKS: Who Dat? Who Dat?

MARTIN: Who Dat?

Mr. BANKS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: So you - I understand you were in Miami. You floated back to town.

Mr. BANKS: Listen, it - I haven't come down yet. Forgive my voice, but I lost it somewhere in Miami.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BANKS: It was fantastic.

MARTIN: Was it fantastic?

Mr. BANKS: I can't even...

MARTIN: What was the best part?

Mr. BANKS: ...begin to describe it. I was with my brother, and we went to the first Saints game in Tulane Stadium with my parents. We were there. I was 7 when we went to that game, and he and I - was there when the Saints won the Super Bowl in Miami. Oh, you - and then they won like a football team. No, it wasn't about Katrina. It wasn't about the city. It was about the fact that the New Orleans Saints showed against all the pundits, all the talking heads, we showed that we are a fantastic, world-class, championship football team.

MARTIN: Well, you know, the Saints had to rally from a 10-0 deficit. They were down 10 points at the early part of the game. Were you ever worried?

Mr. BANKS: Always, always. You know, I'm a Saints fan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BANKS: I would say that if you've not having a heart attack, if your blood pressure is not elevated, the Saints are not playing like they play. Listen, if the champions don't roll over, you're going to make mistakes. You're going to get hit. But it's just like New Orleans, we don't bow down. We'll be bloody. We'll be beat up. But we keep our head, and we keep fighting because the fight's not over 'til it's over.

MARTIN: Well, you know, you were on the program Friday, speaking with another of our frequent guests, Damond Smart of Elkhart, Indiana. Of course, he's, you know, a Colts fan. And you know, you were pretty nice but you were talking a little bit of smack. Do you have anything to say to Damond now - I mean, some words of condolence or anything nice?

Mr. BANKS: No, not at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BANKS: Two champions met. Two champions, that's the whole thing. You don't offer condolences. It was a well-fought battle. And unfortunately for the Colts, they were out-coached, out-quarterbacked, outplayed and Who Dat Nation just did what we had to do to show that the champions that we are, Michel, they don't have to party. They don't need me to offer them condolences. They are the number one team in the AFC. But guess what, Who Dat Nation and New Orleans Saints, the number one team in the world.

MARTIN: I heard, yeah, I heard about it. So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: What...

Mr. BANKS: I'm just a little bexcited.

MARTIN: What does the victory mean for New Orleans? I know a lot of people are reading - sort of more into it than just a game. Is that justified, do you think?

Mr. BANKS: Oh, listen, it means so much on so many levels. It means so much on so many levels when Drew Brees, who I respect highly, because he moved in the city. He lives uptown. You know, a lot of the, you know - and you can live where you want, but to become a New Orleanean, you've got to live in New Orleans. And he lives in New Orleans.

And when he talked about the recovery and what it means, and when he talked about the fact that the Saints embodied that spirit this year, it was, you know, we're just not going to say no, we're going to finish strong. We're going to keep going until it's done. Don't leave anything on the field. And that's the way the city has been. It's been slow, the recovery, a lot of hurdles, a lot of bumps and bruises, but we're not going to stop. We're going to finish strong.

MARTIN: Well, so this is a great win for you, for Saints fans - for those long-suffering Saints fans. But Gralen, on one more note before I let you go - you know, there was an election this weekend.

Mr. BANKS: There was?

MARTIN: In New Orleans, yeah, for the mayor. Did anybody talk about that?

Mr. BANKS: They are - as you know, and for first time in - 32 years, New Orleans will be run by white mayor. Mitch Landrieu won, and his father was the last white mayor. And that's the big thing that everybody was talking about, but he won with a mandate, 60-plus, 66 percent of the votes. That came from all corners.

So as much as folks are going to make about the fact that he's a white mayor, it's still going to be the fact that 66 percent of the people who voted, voted for him. And we're just going to have to see how it rolls out. It's going to be interesting.

MARTIN: How do you feel about the election?

Mr. BANKS: How do I feel about the election?

MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. BANKS: Oh, I don't have a problem. Listen, New Orleans is going to be, it's going to be run by politicians no matter how you do it. And you just got to hope, at the end of the day, that everybody rises. In Mitch's acceptance speech, he talked about not leaving anybody behind. And we're going to see if he's a man of his word. We're going to see if it was campaign rhetoric or if there's going to be some real...

MARTIN: OK.

Mr. BANKS: ...solid pushes and methods put in place to make sure that happens.

MARTIN: Well, we appreciate you. You certainly left your voice behind in Miami, as you mentioned.

Mr. BANKS: Oh, I do apologize.

MARTIN: So I think you'll be hollering a little bit more before it's all over. So we're going to let you rest up for the next phase of the celebration - which, I'm sure, is to come.

Gralen Banks is a New Orleans resident. He's a lifelong New Orleans Saints fan, as he told us, and he was kind enough to join us - just back from Miami, in the middle of his Super Bowl celebrations. Thanks, Gralen.

Mr. BANKS: Thank you, Michel. Bye-bye.

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