Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How many Saints fans does it take to WELCOME HOME THE SAINTS?

...apparently a lot. Reports estimated 10,000 to 30,000. I have no idea how they get this estimate, but either way that's a bunch!

Yes, that's Cari and Randy mixed in among the crowd. Randy is visiting with this older gentleman that we met who has lived in New Orleans for over 40 years, but is original for the Alexandria area. We enjoyed visiting with him over the next few hours. I don't know if we would have sought out this adventure if we would have realized just what we were getting ourselves into, but I am glad that we did.
Several games away from the Super Bowl, Cari asked her dad if they made it to final game, could she go welcome them back home at the airport. I assume that she has seen this on TV before and thought it would be neat to do that especially if they made it this far. I even asked her if she would still want to if they didn't win. She still did. So when they won the next day, Randy made some phone calls and we made the decision to go to NOLA. CLICK HERE to view SUPER BOWL DAY AT NATALIE'S WORLD as viewed through my eyes, (of course).

We had heard (even before we left for NOLA) that they would not be coming home that night, but didn't know anything for sure. Since they did win, they DID HAVE TO STAY for press conferences. And did not have any actually plans of going to the airport. However, we ate breakfast/lunch at IHOP and were in the car on our way home listening to more Saints radio, of course. It was about 12:15 as we were trying to get on Interstate to head home. We heard the radio annoucer say that the Saints were expected to arrive at 1:30. Since we were very near the aiport exit, we couldn't the opportunity to at least check it out.

By the time we found our way down Veteran's Blvd where so many were already lined up with their cars, we had to leave our by the overpass and walk over and find a place to wait. At this point, it should have only been another hour. If I had to guess, I would say about 1/3 of the crowd was there when we arrived. More and more people continued to accumlate. It mind boggling to believe this many people would show up for this.

This is what the crowd looked like to begin with. The tall building in the background is near the airport. We were still a good distance from it. People were lined all the way to the airport to the overpass and past.

This is when the traffic was still flowing on both sides of the curb. We chose the right side in hopes that the players and coaches would be driving their vehicles.

Now the owner of this vehicle was a very serious fan.

See what I mean...

Cari and I liked this girl's sign: DAT'S DAT!

In sequence of event (the first image of Cari, Randy and many others)...

Traffic was beginning to slow down and only a few cars were coming through at this point.

I don't think this was the exact plane, but it looked just like it (that is if it was the one that we thought...of course when this was photographed we thought this was it).
I included this photo rather than the other one because I liked the flag/pennat that was flying in the bottom of the image.

This guy playing the drum visited with us too. He came from California to see the Super Bowl from NOLA. Howver, he was orginally from New Orleans. I don't know the other guys story, but I think they met the day before on Bourbon Street. They played When the Saints Go Marching In. They really boosted the morale of the crowd and made it more intersting.

Finally a few cars started coming. I am not sure if this was the "official" group yet, but you gotta admit, that looks like a New Orleans Saints car. It also reminded me of a car my dad had when I was a kid. My dad's car wasn't this cool!

See the people lined up on the overpass. The police ran them off several times, but they finally gave up on that.
Also notice this fence. They put up the wobbly-portable fence. The told us that this fence would be on our side and a cop car would go side by side on the other side. So as sad as I was that we were going to be viewing this through a chain-link fence, I knew that was better than not seeing at all because of the cop car. didn't go that way.

See I told you those people came back and then some.

They removed the fence and the cop cars did NOT go beside them. The players, coaches and even owners (in the next photo, Rita Benson Leblanc) could barely drive there cars through. The people were so thick the cars just had to ease through to avoid running over people. Cari turned paparazzi on us and fought other women with point and shoot cameras and camera phones the Saints members as they slowly drove through. Some of the were very friendly and still seemed very excited. A few didn't even put their dark tinted windows down. SNOBS! But most of them, were at least, very accommodating and gave high fives...okay maybe not HIGH FIVES, but had their hands out sort of like a cross between giving five and hand shaking...kind of the baseball teams at the end of the game with each other. Needless to say, it was nice gesture. I know they had to be getting tired of the attention and probably just wanted to go home to sleep or rest.
Many of the people we didn't recognize. After all, they didn't have their jerseys on with their names and numbers. But I was told that this was Rita Benson LeBlanc. I did look up the Saints roster that included players, coaches and mangers, which confirmed that information. I plan to post many more images on facebook. I would love to hear who recognizes them either because they really knew who it was or could identify them from their photo on the website. As I looked through it, I recognized many of the faces Cari photographed, but I do not have the time or desire to match all of them and list their names.

Most of the photos that Cari took were very close. She had to literally be on top of them. If she allowed any space someone would be in front of her in heartbeat. In fact, she did end up getting many camera phones and peoples' heads in her images too. I am sure many of them popped in just as she was snapping.

Again I was told this was the defensive coach, Greg Williams. The WEBSITE confirmed.

Even I recognized the Owner of the Saints, Mr. Benson.

Who recognizes this guy? I will give you hint. He made the winning 3 points in the game against the Minnesota Vikings on the 24th.

There it is, the LOMBARDI TROPHY, and the man himself, Sean Peyton, HEAD COACH OF THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS.

I think Cari was especially proud to have captured this one.

Now doesn't this player seem to be enjoying this as much as the crowd enjoyed seeing them?
Do you know who he is?
I think I do...according to the ROSTER, this is Thomas Morstead, #6.

This was quite an adventure and I am glad that Cari and Randy had to opportunity to do this. I know they both got a kick out of it. It was a little trouble, but I think it meant a lot to the Saints and everyone who made them who they are from coaches to staff. But what would they be without their fans.
Oh I almost forgot. I will have one more mini post about the Saints. We did not get to see MY FAVORITE PLAYER, Drew Brees. I will do another post on that and why we didn't.
For now, I think this is it. If you happen to be a Saints fan and would like to see some of the close-up photos that Cari captured at the airport as the Saints were going one, please look me up on facebook. I plan to post them in a day or so.


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