Football, and its many traditions within, is one of America's favorite past times. Football is even America's favorite sport to watch, with more popularity than basketball, baseball, and soccer combined. In fact, 62% of Americans consider themselves a fan or "somewhat" of a fan of professional football, and 54% say the same for college football. The NFL has the highest average attendance of any professional sports league in the world. It's rare to find a passive fan, most are invested in their teams and you will find them cheering after a touchdown or crying out in disappointment following a fumble. This emotional investment, plus the cultural aspects such as tailgating and watch parties that go along with football, make it something that millions invest themselves in.
In a recent study from WalletHub of 2022's best and worst cities for football fans, New Orleans was ranked at number eight out of 240 U.S cities. The study was based upon 21 metrics, with 75 points out of 100 going to the pro football category and the rest going to college football. In the pro football category, the metrics included average ticket price for an NFL game, NFL fan engagement, attendance, number of coaches in the past 10 seasons, and performance level among more. In the category of "Most Engaged NFL Fans," New Orleans ranked number 4, and ranked number 3in the category of "Best Performing NFL Team."
While this may have been a rocky season for The Saints, overall, the team serves as a source of happiness and unity for citizens across the city. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Sean Payton came on as head coach and helped secure The Saints' first Super Bowl title in 2010. He recently announced his plans to retire after 16 years and certainly helped establish the team as a force to be reckoned with. Also joining the team following Katrina was quarterback Drew Brees, who retired following the 2020 season. Brees helped the team achieve many great wins and holds the second highest NFL career pass completion percentage, along with second place in career touchdown passes. Many other great players past and present have helped create a unique culture around The Saints that fans look forward to cheering on again the second the season is over.
Football serves as a fun outlet and hobby, and its traditions, such as tailgating and watch parties, create even more excitement. It gives people something to look forward to, as well as a temporary escape from reality. Recently, however, COVID-19 has meant a difficult time for football lovers. Whether it was canceled games due to infected players or playing to empty stadiums, it has certainly presented its challenges. The rollout of vaccines meant that towards the end of 2021, fans were able to return to stadiums. Caesars Superdome requiring vaccination cards at the beginning of the season, and later masks, meant that fans could cheer on The Saints like in times past.
In their study, WalletHub asked a panel of experts questions, including, "Is having a professional team an economic drain or benefit for cities?" Lee H. Igel, Clinical Professor of the Tisch Institute for Global Sport at New York University, said, "Having a professional football team is a benefit to a city. That is especially the case when the team really acts in partnership with the city and the communities of residents, visitors, business owners, and fans. A decade of research from an ongoing NYU-U.S. Conference of Mayors initiative on sports in cities shows that, when the focus is really on the partnership, what pro teams do can provide meaningful economic, infrastructure, social, and identity benefits to the city that makes a positive impact on the people living, working, and visiting it."
The big development recently was Caesars taking on ownership of The Superdome and bringing exciting changes, including five levels of exciting food, drinks, and local delicacies such as the Cajun Corner with jambalaya and alligator sausage. Located right downtown, the stadium makes it accessible for fans to come cheer on The Saints, as well as attend other events that are hosted there such as the Men's NCAA Final Four this year. The iconic building is part of the New Orleans skyline, and 2020 marked the beginning of a multi-phase, multi-year renovation project that will continue to build on the building's previous improvements and lay the foundation for the future.
New Orleans is certainly a city to be contended with when it comes to being a great city for football. Between great eats, drinks, and team paraphernalia, you've got a challenge, but what sets these fans apart are their spirit and belief in great things to continue to happen. The Saints' team colors are a representation that among the losses, there is also greatness.