NEW ORLEANS — This must have been what it sounded like to sit in the stands for games back in the early 1980’s.
For the first time during this COVID-19 impacted season, the New Orleans Saints allowed fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. The proud members of the Who Dat Nation came out to support the home team wearing their homemade shoulder pads, gold sequin jackets and of course cheered on the Saints with adult beverages in hands while dancing.
The fans also brought their own signs that had messages ranging from “Who Dat” to “Hey Saints We Will Mask for You.”
Yet, when the music was cued up and the Ying Yang Twins instructed fans to “stand up and get crunk” the ensuing noise from the Who Dat Nation was muted. Nor did the decibel level increase when the message on the jumbotrons blasted “Do Your Job! Get Loud!”
That’s because 3,000 fans — no matter how die-hard and joyfully inebriated they might be while still responsibly wearing masks — simply aren’t enough to give the Saints a Dome-field advantage — something the team has leaned on for more than a decade.
No, the Saints didn’t play like the team in 1980 that inspired the famed nickname of the Ain’ts. Drew Brees was vintage Brees as he scored three total touchdowns in a hard-fought 27-24 win over the rival Carolina Panthers.
But one does wonder if having thousands more fans inside the Superdome would have made more of an impact in the game. Could the fans have helped disrupt the rhythm of former Saint fan favorite Teddy Bridgewater who completed 23-of-28 passes for 254 yards? Maybe.
Could the Saints fans maybe have lit a fire underneath the defense who gave up big play after big play on Sunday, including a 74-yard touchdown from Bridgewater to D.J. Moore? You would like to think so.
It’s not as if the fans in attendance didn’t try to be loud and proud for the home team. After Joey Slye’s game-tying 65-yard field goal fell one yard short, fans began to chant “Who dat, who dat say they going to beat them Saints.”
It was familiar and comforting but also noticeably more of a whimper in the Superdome which has a game-day capacity of 73,208.
It became even more noticeable before Slye attempted his kick.
The video board showed Slye missing three kicks in last year’s game at New Orleans. The sound from that old clip was more deafening than anything broadcast on Sunday.
The Saints themselves were appreicative of the fans’ efforts.
“I don’t care how many fans it was,” Saints running back Alvin Kamara said. “If it was 10 or 1,000 or 3,000, it was good to have some people back in there.”
“You certainly felt a little bit more juice in the stadium than normal,” added Saints coach Sean Payton.
Will that little bit of juice increase for the next home game against the San Francisco 49ers? Will the Dome once again be rockin’? If COVID-19 continues to be subdued in New Orleans and Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the Saints can agree on an increased number then the Superdome could provide that Dome Advantage again.
Regardless, the Saints keep proving that they can continue to win games even without 73,000-plus fans inside the Superdome. That is all that really matters, isn’t it?