Moment of the Decade: Saints Return to the Superdome

Today at TSB, we're each giving our personal moment of the decade in sports.
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↵There were many memorable moments that, for me, helped shape this decade in sports. I sat in awe watching the record-setting eight gold-medal performance turned in by Michael Phelps at the Olympics in 2008. Just as compelling was the 2004 Red Sox World Series effort that broke the 86 year-old Curse of the Bambino. I witnessed nearly impossible helmet catches by the Alabama Crimson Tide's Tyrone Prothro and the New York Giants' David Tyree. I was moved by Brett Favre's near-perfect Monday Night Football performance in 2003 over the Oakland Raiders just one day after Favre's father had passed away. I was equally touched by the four-minute, 20-point high school basketball triumph provided by autistic bench player Jason McElwain. Closer to home, it would be impossible to forget Nick Saban guiding LSU to a CFB National Title in 2003, or Les Miles leading LSU to another crystal ball in 2007. ↵

↵However, none of these moments are personally the most memorable – that moment came when the 2006 New Orleans Saints returned the spectacle of sport, and a glimmer of hope, back to the Superdome following the devastation of New Orleans brought on by Hurricane Katrina. ↵

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↵A year earlier, I was working as a registered nurse at a long term acute care center in Greater New Orleans. I was on the initial Hurricane Response Team and had prepared to stay for as long as a week just before the eye of the storm had hit the Gulf Coast. I had no idea that I would spend the next 21 days there with little relief, food, or electricity. Cell phone communication with loved ones was not available until seven days later, and when it finally came, some co-workers received grim news of family members lost in the storm. News of the Katrina's city-wide effects were scarce as there was only a battery-operated radio to deliver details. ↵

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↵Reports of multiple levees breaking raised tensions as did the news that the roof of the once-thought-impenetrable Superdome had been ripped open. The Superdome is a fixture in the New Orleans skyline, and to view the tattered Dome from the rooftop of the hospital was a metaphorical experience that spoke of an unknown future for the city and its residents. ↵

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↵Despite the somber outlook, there were some light-hearted moments, and for me, that was finding a Saints game on the radio dial. The losses greatly outnumbered the wins that year, but I found solace in Saints football for about three hours each Sunday. Then came the rumors that the team on the run may relocate to San Antonio or Los Angeles. Katrina had torn apart lives, levees and property, and now I figured she might take my only comfort. However, that was not the case. The NFL and Saints owner Tom Benson reaffirmed their commitment to help the ravaged New Orleans economy by promising to remain afloat here. ↵

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↵In 2006, as levees and homes were being repaired, the Saints made major changes to the team bringing in a new regime, new players, and a renewed hope. However, many were uncertain if the repairs to the Superdome would be completed in time for the Saints first home game back in New Orleans in over a year. Those doubts were soon resolved when then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue assured the event would take place on time. The build-up to the game was palpable. The sheer pageantry of the event rivaled the game between the Saints and the Falcons. ↵

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↵The NFL was back in the Superdome, but there was still a game to play. ↵

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↵Then came that moment; that glorious moment. On Atlanta's first-quarter punt, then-Saints special-teamer Steve Gleason blocked the Falcons' kick and then-Saints defensive back Curtis Deloatch frantically recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The crowd exploded with roaring emotion. The energy was exhilarating. The moment was magical. ↵

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↵The Saints would go on to win the game, but that moment symbolized hope for those weary and longsuffering. That moment transcended sports into human interest. That moment was my most memorable. For me, that moment was unforgettable. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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