Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mardi Gras? Nah, It's New Orleans' Saints Super Bowl Warm-Up

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mardi Gras? Nah, It's New Orleans' Saints Super Bowl Warm-Up

Article excerpt

The Saints' run to the Super Bowl has come to symbolize New Orleans' post-Katrina revival. The result has been a party not seen for generations - even in the city that calls Mardi Gras home.

Al "Carnival Time" Johnson saved only a few possessions from the wreck of his house in the Lower Ninth Ward after hurricane Katrina: a few family photos, some laminated newspaper clippings detailing his music career, and a Saints football cap.

"I got this cap the first time I went to see the Saints, when they were playing at Tulane Stadium before the Superdome was even built," remembers Mr. Johnson, standing on the front porch of his new house in the Ninth Ward's Musicians Village.

Johnson's 1960 R&B hit "Carnival Time" has long served as one of the city's unofficial anthems for Mardi Gras, the world renown party that New Orleans hosts every February. For Johnson and legions of other fans this carnival season, the Saints have become a new long, high note of hope and celebration.

Spontaneous celebration

The wave of emotion that New Orleans is riding over its Super Bowl-bound team is evident everywhere.

Some restaurants have changed their linens to black and gold. After the Jan. 16 win over the Cardinals in the NFC playoffs, riders on a St. Charles Avenue street car broke into the chant "Who dat? Who dat say they gonna beat dem Saints?" Pedestrians thronged the trolley like it was a Mardi Gras float.

In the wake of their conference championship win over Minnesota a week later, Canal Street closed down for hours as strangers hugged each other and girls blew kisses out of open car windows. Though long-plagued by a murder rate that has at times clocked a killing a day, the city saw no reports of violence before, during, or after the game.

The largest local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, called the spontaneous citywide party after the Jan. 24 win New Orleans' biggest communal celebration since WWII and printed an extra 150,000 copies of its Monday-after edition, which became an instant collector's item. …

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