If you bleed New Orleans Saints gold and black, you’ll want the dial turned to ESPN tonight at 8 PM ET. That’s because the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports is airing the Saints’ iconic return to the Superdome in 2006 after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina a year earlier.
The Saints were nomads in 2005, splitting time between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and San Antonio’s Alamodome while New Orleans was still in shambles following one of the most destructive hurricanes on record. The team understandably struggled, faltering to an abysmal 3-13 record under then-head coach Jim Haslett.
But 2006 changed everything. The Saints became the breath of fresh air the Big Easy desperately needed, a rallying cry for a city in mourning. And it all began on September 25 when the Saints made their much-anticipated return to the Superdome after a tumultuous year-long exile.
The Week 3 matchup against the Falcons was an emotional one with free-agent signing Drew Brees (who was famously courted by the Miami Dolphins before a troubling medical exam ended their pursuit) making his New Orleans debut in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. What transpired on the gridiron was a feature-length tearjerker, playing out like the climax of a Hollywood sports thriller as the Saints rolled their division rival by an emphatic 23-3 margin in a game that will forever live on in New Orleans lore.
The game will long be remembered for Steve Gleason’s iconic blocked punt in the game’s opening minutes, setting the stage for a New Orleans onslaught as the undefeated Saints stretched their record to 3-0, matching their win total from the previous season. That moment was later commemorated with a statue that has remained a permanent fixture outside the Superdome.
Gleason’s heroics in arguably the most memorable game in franchise history (though you could make an equally compelling case for New Orleans’ Super Bowl victory over the Peyton-Manning-led Colts in 2010) have taken on even greater significance in recent years. The former linebacker’s harrowing battle with ALS has been well-documented, though the 43-year-old still fights every day, just like New Orleans did after the levies broke in 2005.
With COVID-19 affecting our world in ways no one could imagine, the Saints’ resilience in the wake of Hurricane Katrina should serve as an uplifting reminder that this too shall pass.