New Orleanians don’t go quietly.
So, when their beloved Saints – themselves a symbol of the city’s underdog hutzpah – saw their chance at a Super Bowl berth vanish Sunday with a mind-blowing no-call of pass interference against the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans people did what New Orleans people do.
They got feisty.
“One thing people misunderstand about New Orleans is that we can put on wigs and boas and costumes and get out there as a group – and be deadly serious at the same time,” Kevin Allman, editor of the city’s alternative newspaper, Gambit, told CNN. “New Orleans traditionally (has) addressed adversity with satire, often biting satire.”
Within hours of the soul-shattering loss, an iconic local bakery came up with cookies featuring a photo in sugar of the chief of the referee team that blew the call, then slashed through his face with red icing.
A Louisiana eye doctor offered to “GLADLY provide no cost eye exams to all NFL officials prior to next season to prevent the atrocity that occurred tonight. We would hate for someone else to feel our pain.”
And two fans sued NFL officials on behalf of the team’s season ticket holders, saying they’ve lost faith in the league.
A digital sign above the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge, the 23-mile span that links suburbs teeming with Saints diehards, stated succinctly how its administrators viewed the outcome: “We were robbed,” CNN affiliate WGNO reported.
Cartoonist Walt Handelsman of The Advocate took a similar view, illustrating a furious member of “Who Dat Nation” reporting a robbery after the NFC Championship Game.
Another city newspaper, The Times-Picayune, won social media props with a headline that played on the foul language that flew when the referee’s flag stayed put: “Reffing Unbelievable.”
The snark extended all the way to Atlanta, home of the Saints archrival Falcons and host of the big game on February 3.
“I did what anybody from New Orleans would do if they were able,” Bowers told WWL.
Meantime, more than a half million Saints fans and sympathizers added their signatures to an online petition demanding a rematch on Sunday, declaring it “the only fair solution to this travesty of epic proportions.”
New Orleans native son Harry Connick Jr. publicly shared his letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who, some argue, ought to use his authority to change the result of the conference title game. The famed musician called the disputed play “one of the most disgraceful no-calls I have ever seen” and said he’s boycotting the Super Bowl.
While some harbored hope the past might yet be undone, others in the Crescent City began looking ahead to how they might soften what’s sure to feel like a hard hit when the Rams meet the New England Patriots in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Some 7,000 people have indicated they would instead attend the Boycott Bowl, a proposed participant-driven “celebration of New Orleans” featuring music and food but not any NFL programming on the evening of the first Sunday in February, WGNO reported.
An even bigger event might be rolling through town at that time, though.
Allman suggested in his column that the city should host a parade featuring quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints to bring some “closure” to a great season’s cruel conclusion. At least one local lawmaker is on board – and says it should happen “smack during” Super Bowl LIII, now dubbed “LIE” by locals.
It’d be a reprise of the legendary 2010 parade that ferried Saints heroes on signature floats from the region’s biggest Carnival organizations after the team brought home the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl that February.
“Whenever New Orleanians are happy, they have a parade,” Allman said. “When they grieve, they have a parade. And when they’re angry, they have a parade.”