Amidst the death and destruction Hurricane Katrina wrought on New Orleans in August 2005 — including thousands and thousands of residents’ losing or being displaced from their homes, their jobs, and their families — the travails of a professional football team are decidedly minor in comparison. But the damage to New Orleans’ infrastructure and the use of the Louisiana Superdome as an emergency refuge for Katrina victims also displaced the city’s NFL franchise, the New Orleans Saints, forcing them to become vagabonds for the entire 2005 football season. The Saints moved their practice facilities to San Antonio, Texas; played their first “home” game in the stadium of their opponents, the New York Giants; then split their remaining home dates between San Antonio’s Alamodome and Baton Rouge’s Tiger Stadium (the home field of Louisiana State University’s football team). Not surprisingly, given the circumstances, the Saints lost 11 of their last 12 games and finished the season with a dismal 3-13 record, second-worst in the NFL.
In 2006, the Saints not only returned home to New Orleans and the Superdome (the stadium having under gone a $185 million renovation in the meanwhile), but they enjoyed their most successful season in their history to that point, finishing first in their division with a 10-6 record, then defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in a divisional playoff to qualify for their first-ever appearance in the NFC championship game.
On 21 January 2007 the Saints squared off against the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field, with a chance of winning a Super Bowl berth for the first time in the franchise’s forty-year history. As expected, plenty of loyal Chicago Bears fans turned out for the game brandishing signs and banners proclaiming what they expected their favorites to do to the visiting team. Some New Orleans fans (and other viewers) felt some of the signs went far beyond the pale of good taste, however, such as the following:
Example: [Collected via e-mail, January 2007]
The attached photo has been circulating around the Gulf Coast region for a couple of days now (since Saturday’s Bears-Saints game). Do you have any word on whether it is authentic or doctored? Was this individual really that tasteless and crude?
The sign was indeed real and not a product of digital trickey, though. Eric Zorn in his Tribune blog reproduced a comment from the (Saints) fan who snapped the photo, and it was captured by various telecasts:
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