NFL's Saints Face Uncertain Post-Katrina Season
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Today marks the opening day of the professional football season. Teams across the country are gearing up for the march towards the Super Bowl and that includes the New Orleans Saints, but like many of their city's residents, the team is displaced. Their stadium was the shelter for victims of Katrina and the city is still mostly underwater. The fans, though, want the season to go on. Mike Triplett covers the Saints for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined us from San Antonio where he and the team have had to relocate.
And what other accommodations have they made so that they can play the season?
Mr. MIKE TRIPLETT (The New Orleans Times-Picayune): Well, finding out where they're going to play their games is still the big question that's up in the air. There's a lot of sentiment to try to play in Baton Rouge which is about an hour's drive from New Orleans, but, you know, that brings a lot of logistical concerns because Baton Rouge is also very overcrowded and being stretched. San Antonio, which is about 500 miles away, and there's an Alamodome here, which, you know, is set up for football and has hosted preseason football games before but, you know, does not house a professional team. So they're making accommodations to offer the Alamodome to the Saints, too. And then what the Saints are doing for their very first home game is playing it on the road in New York against the Giants who were supposed to come to New Orleans.
MONTAGNE: Well, cities tend to love their football teams. Why are the Saints so important to New Orleans fans?
Mr. TRIPLETT: They are one of the strongest and most supportive fan bases. Unfortunately, one of the best ways to test loyalty is when your teams aren't doing well and the Saints do not have a history of winning. And they have only won one playoff game in their history. And we actually did a study earlier that they've had the most fans per win of any team in the NFL over those years. The fans keep coming out and keep supporting their team, and even before Hurricane Katrina, you know, it meant a lot to civic pride.
MONTAGNE: There was some talk before the hurricane hit that the Saints weren't satisfied with playing in the Superdome, they might be moving.
Mr. TRIPLETT: Fortunately, that is a major issue right now and a big fear. You know, the owner has a lot of San Antonio ties and this has always been one of the rumored destinations the Saints might move to, and talk of that has definitely sprung up in this last week, that this may cater the way to a permanent move to San Antonio.
MONTAGNE: Well, I gather they're going out to shelters to meet fans and offer support to people who've been displaced.
Mr. TRIPLETT: They were in Oakland watching it on TV like everyone else, and a lot of players, you could tell they were really upset by it. And when they got here in San Antonio where a lot of evacuees, over 10,000 evacuees, are sheltered here, a lot of them quickly went out and did all they could. And, you know, you wonder, covering a team like this, how important football is to everybody, especially in the immediate aftermath, but all these people in the shelter are going up to the Saints players, talking about the roster, the schedule, how they're going to do. You know, I mean, it is something that these people still want a lot of life to be normal and they're still Saints fans and it's not the number-one most pressing concern on their minds, but they still are rooting for them.
MONTAGNE: Mike, thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. TRIPLETT: Thank you very much.
MONTAGNE: Mike Triplett is a sports writer for The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.