‘Who Dat’ nation celebrates Super Bowl

Sixteen
hours after the New Orleans Saints’ victory in Super Bowl
XLIV,
the crowd at Domilise’s Po-Boys was still in Who Dat heaven. Everyone
who was assembling the Uptown restaurant’s iconic shrimp, oyster and roast-beef
sandwiches was wearing a Saints-related T-shirt or cap, as were many of the
customers, and everyone was smiling.

Into
this jam-packed eatery came Joy Favor, who had made a beeline for Domilise’s
after getting off a flight from Miami,
where she had seen the game. Wearing a black T-shirt and carrying a golden tote
bag on her left shoulder, she said two words when she crossed the threshold:
“Who Dat!”

Favor
said she had had no sleep, but she was clearly excited about the game and what
she had seen and heard Monday morning on the way back home.

“It’s
unbelievable,” Favor said. “The pilot got on the microphone and said, ‘Who
Dat!’ Even the Colts fans I saw in Miami
were saying, ‘You deserve that.’”

What
might have seemed surprising was that this outpouring of Saints support was
occurring in what is not only a favorite restaurant of the Manning family but
also a virtual shrine to its members. Among the photographs behind the bar are
pictures of Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback, and his
brother, Eli, the New York Giants quarterback, holding the Vince Lombardi
Trophy the year their respective teams won the Super Bowl.

Despite
that strong bond, Patti Domilise, the restaurant’s manager, made her allegiance
clear. Wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Hey
Shockey Way,” in honor of Saints tight end Jeremy
Shockey, Domilise said there was no question about whom she and her colleagues
would root for Sunday.

“When
it was their turn, we were pulling for them,” she said. “It was our turn this
time.”

If
Sunday was a day of game-related tension, Monday was a time for afterglow.

It
was not business as usual. Traffic in and around the city was lighter than
normal; many schools were closed. Businesses seemed to run at a little less
than full speed; restaurants were not so crowded.

All
over town, people seemed to have no intention of making Monday a regular day.
It was not. Monday was a day full of camaraderie and good cheer, a day in which
the electronic sign above the northbound entrance to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
bore a new name, Breesway, in honor of Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Nobody
was a stranger.

New
Orleans was undergoing what Jim Murray called “a perfect storm” of good
fortune: a New Orleans mayor’s race that, in Mitch Landrieu, produced an astonishing 66 percent
consensus on the city’s next leader; a Super Bowl championship; and Mardi Gras,
which, one wag suggested, could be renamed “Dat Tuesday.”

“Yeah,
it’s a perfect storm. I told somebody, not since 9/11 have I felt anything like
this,” said Murray, a process operator at the Dow Chemical plant in Norco. “All the divisions
feel like they’re gone. It’s like for once we’re all on the same page, right?”

Lisa
Smyth, an Uptowner, said the weekend’s events marked nothing less than “a sea
change for the city. It’s huge.”

“Oh,
this is way bigger than the Super Bowl, trust me,” said Eddie Sandifer, the
community-outreach coordinator for Positive Living Treatment Center, a private
mental health clinic near the corner of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis
Parkway. “It’s the best day since — when? Since whenever, that’s when. This
blurs all the lines: racial, income, social status, everything.

“We’re
just in a holding pattern today, and it’s going to stay that way for a while,
at least until the parade tomorrow.”