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New Orleans Saints running back Mike Bell kisses the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Saints defeated the Colts 31 â€“ 17 in Super Bowl XLIV.Â It was New Orleansâ€™ first ever professional championship in any sport and comes on the heels of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina five years.
The "Who Dat Nation" Is Super
SAINTS GO MARCHING BACK TO NEW ORLEANS WITH SUPER BOWL
31-17 victory brings city its first ever professional championship
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
Saints fans have chanted "Who Dat?" all season and now the answer is the Super Bowl champions in the most watched event in television history.
The 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV not only set off a week of nonstop celebration, it was the biggest boost the city has seen since the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina five years ago.
Bourbon Street will be ablaze from now until Mardi Gras on Tuesday as New Orleans erased four decades of futility to win the city's first ever championship in any sport.
Such was the buzz for the game that the audience (106.5 million viewers) topped the 1983 series finale of "MASH" to be the most-watched television program in U.S. history.
This season, they became "America's Team" as most fans went against the experts and pick the Saints because their story captivated a nation who remembered the tragic events of a hurricane that forever altered the region.
2005 saw the Superdome housing homeless citizens looking for help and New Orleans and the Gulf Coast recovering after being almost submerged by Katrina, a Category 5 Hurricane that was the worst natural disaster on American soil.
The Saints became a road team all season, playing all 16 games at opposing stadiums. Like their fans, they too were displaced.
But the fans and their team share a unique connection deeper than most teams. And when the Superdome reopened in 2006, it provided the city and the sports world with one of its most memorable moments.
It was fitting that a Louisiana native would make the game-winning play. Saints cornerback Tracy Porter from Port Allen intercepted Peyton Manning's pass and took it 74 yards for a touchdown that ensured the Lombardi Trophy was coming to the Big Easy.
Ironically, it was Porter who helped save the Saints' season in the NFC Championship Game by intercepting Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre's pass to force overtime - which the Saints later won.
It was a victory for former USC Trojans Reggie Bush and Sedrick Ellis. Bush contributed 67 yards in the game and Ellis (out of Chino High School) made three tackles in the game.
Where there were once waterlogged streets then, they were clogged this week with citizens who waited 44 years for a chance to finally celebrate a champion.
New Orleans has long been a city known for hosting championship events but until Sunday, it has never hosted its own party. Now with Mardi Gras set to arrive on Tuesday, the city will be in the mood to celebrate like never before.
And for a city that also celebrated a new mayor-elect in Mitch Landrieu last weekend, it's one more step toward rebuilding and reclaiming its identity