The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints currently compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member of the league’s National Football Conference (NFC) South division. The team was founded by John W. Mecom Jr., David Dixon and the city of New Orleans. The Saints began play in Tulane Stadium in 1967.
The name “Saints” is an allusion to November 1 being All Saints Day in the Catholic faith, New Orleans’ large Catholic population, and the spiritual “When the Saints Go Marching In”, which is strongly associated with New Orleans and often sung by fans at games. The franchise was founded on November 1, 1966. The team’s primary colors are old gold and black; their logo is a simplified fleur-de-lis. They played their home games in Tulane Stadium through the 1974 NFL season. The following year, they moved to the new Louisiana Superdome (now the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, since Mercedes-Benz has purchased the stadium’s naming rights).
For most of their first 20 years, the Saints were barely competitive, only getting to .500 twice. In 1987, they finished 12–3—their first-ever winning season—and qualified for the NFL playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but lost to the Minnesota Vikings 44–10. The next season of 1988 ended with a 10–6 record. In the year 2000, the Saints defeated the St. Louis Rams 31–28 to notch their first-ever playoff win.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast region. The Superdome was used as an emergency temporary shelter for displaced residents. The stadium suffered damage from the hurricane (notably from flooding and part of the roof being torn off as well as internal damage), and from lack of available facilities. The Saints were forced to play their first scheduled home game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (the Giants’ home stadium); other home games were rescheduled at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas or Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During the season, it was rumored that Saints owner Tom Benson might deem the Superdome unusable and seek to legally void his contract and relocate the team to San Antonio, where he has business interests. Ultimately, however, the Superdome was repaired and renovated in time for the 2006 season at an estimated cost of US$185 million. The New Orleans Saints’ first post-Katrina home game was an emotionally charged Monday Night Football game versus their division rival, the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints, under rookie head coach Sean Payton and new quarterback Drew Brees, defeated the Falcons 23–3, and went on to notch the second playoff win in franchise history.
First the brainchild of local sports entrepreneur Dave Dixon, who also founded the Louisiana Superdome and the USFL, the Saints were actually secretly born in a backroom deal brought about by U.S. Congressman Hale Boggs, U.S. Senator Russell Long, and then–NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. The NFL needed congressional approval of the proposed AFL–NFL merger. Dixon and a local civic group had been seeking an NFL franchise for over five years and had hosted record crowds for NFL exhibition games. To seal the merger, Rozelle arrived in New Orleans within a week, and announced on November 1, 1966, that the NFL officially had awarded the city of New Orleans an NFL franchise. The team was named for the great jazz song most identified with New Orleans – “When the Saints Go Marching In”, and it was no coincidence that the franchise’s official birth was announced on November 1, which is the Catholic All Saints’ Day. When the deal was reached a week earlier, Dixon strongly suggested to Rozelle that the announcement be delayed until then. Dixon told an interviewer that he even cleared the name with New Orleans’ Archbishop Philip M. Hannan: “He thought it would be a good idea. He had an idea the team was going to need all the help it could get.”
Gumbo the Dog is one of two official mascots of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, the other being Sir Saint. Gumbo is in the form of a Saint Bernard dog and wears the number 00. It was the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s gift to the Saints. Sir Saint is the second official mascot of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, along with Gumbo the dog. Sir Saint is one of the original mascots of the Saints under former owner John Mecom, and was revived by the organization after several decades of hiatus.
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