Here at The Sports Fan Journal, we hope to evolve and deliver something not found in any other corner of this here internet. We bring you Mark Trible and Dillon Friday's NFL Countdown project. A fan from each NFL team will be featured as we anxiously await the season's kickoff.
Someone needs to tell the fans' stories. What better place than their trusty Journal?
Without further ado, meet New Orleans Saints fan Tanisha Robinson.
The Louisiana native struggles to find the right words.
"Of course it was just a sports win and a Super Bowl win, but it was a win for a city that had just been through things you couldn't even imagine," says Tanisha Robinson on the New Orleans Saints' victory in Super Bowl XLIV. "From going from the Superdome being a shelter to housing a Super Bowl-winning team — that was just one of the best feelings ever."
Robinson grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, and moved to New Orleans just in time to experience the first Super Bowl run in the team's history. Off the strength of quarterback Drew Brees, one of the most opportunistic defenses in the NFL and the overwhelming spirit of a city that experienced one of the most devastating natural disasters in American history, the Saints were able to tally 13 regular-season wins to position themselves as the top-seeded team in the NFC.
In the Super Bowl, they faced a Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts team that went 14-2 during the regular season. After trailing 10-6 at the half, head coach Sean Payton made one of the most interesting moves in Super Bowl history by electing to open the second half with an onside kick, which they recovered. A Pierre Thomas 16-yard touchdown catch from Brees gave the Saints the lead. Eighteen unanswered points gave the Saints the title.
The city went wild.
"These are stories that I will tell my kids one day," Robinson begins. "I started working at a new job in the French Quarter the night they won. It was like everything bad completely stopped in the city for that one night. Not even just for that night, but throughout the playoffs. Everybody, all of a sudden, just loved each other."
For those who have never been to New Orleans, hearing about the great food, the music scene and the wild parties is one thing. To experience it during Mardi Gras is quite another. Add in the city's first Super Bowl win? It doesn't get any better.
"The thing is, the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras kind of coincided. So they had the Super Bowl parade — which I can tell you no one can do a Super Bowl parade like New Orleans — and then literally the next week was Mardi Gras. So people were partying for a good month straight, starting from the start of the playoffs all the way through Mardi Gras. They called it, 'Lombardi Gras,'" says Robinson.
However, being a Saints fan neither begins nor ends with Super Bowl XLIV. Robinson will tell you that she loathes the Atlanta Falcons.
"One of my favorite memories ever of the Saints is when Steve Gleason blocked a field goal against the Falcons just because of the moment that it was," she says. "It was the first game back in the Superdome, right after Katrina, and knowing what we know now about Gleason's disease, it's just a really good one for me."
Gleason is currently battling ALS, a disease that has seen a lot of support in the sports and entertainment community in recent weeks. The ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $13 million since the end of July and has even seen Brees participate in the challenge while donating $10,000 in honor of Gleason.
This, of course, is just one of the many reasons for Robinson to love a guy like Brees. During his tenure in New Orleans, he's shattered several records with his passing ability having a level of accuracy that was once only reserved for the Atomic Clock. Add in his epic pregame chants and, you know, that Super Bowl he won, and Brees has reached a stature in New Orleans that not many footballers have reached in any other city.
When Robinson speaks of Brees, her voice changes slightly. It's a little higher, a little more upbeat. "He's just an other worldly human being out here. He's just looked at on a completely different level. He's not a quarterback; he's like a god — he really is."
Brees is an interesting juxtaposition against her least favorite Saint of all time, Aaron Brooks, who she claims she "wanted to get off the bus and fight" at age 16 when he refused an autograph to her nine-year-old nephew following a training camp black and gold game in her hometown.
It was Robinson's mother who brought her up to love the Saints. Now that she's followed the team, she wants to tell her future children about the Super Bowl season one day. In the meantime, she'll continue to enjoy watching Brees and his boys try to run through the NFC South. She may get down occasionally knowing that his career is ultimately going to end, but as of right now, she's just "living in the moment."
>> Be sure to catch the rest of the "Meet the Fan" series:
Phillip Barnett featuring Phillip Barnett.