Some sport cliches are great. The New Orleans Saints return to their Superdome home exactly ten years ago tonight and winning big after their city and stadium suffered horrific damage from Hurricane Katrina, is one of them.
At this point there is no shortage of articles and testimonials that can speak to the devastation the people of New Orleans faced. One of the deadliest natural disasters in American history, the federal government's poor handling during and after the storm was eventually overshadowed by the way the people of the city came together to repair their city. And one year later, after rumors that their home team was considering a full-time move to San Antonio after the hurricane, the Saints return to the Big Easy gave citizens a new sense of hope.
And then the block heard around the world happened.
A blocked punk is almost always an exciting play, but few moments in all of football history can compare with Steve Gleason getting in front of Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen and batting the ball down, resulting in a New Orleans touchdown early in the first quarter of the two teams Monday Night Football matchup on September 26th. 2006. The Saints would cruise to a to 23-3 victory.
"I think that honestly was probably the longest celebration that the refs have ever allowed a team to celebrate," Curtis Deloatch, who scored the touchdown told ESPN in an oral history of the game published today at ESPN to celebrate the anniversary.
The celebration would continue into 2009, as the Saints, long considered one of the worst franchises in football, beat the Indianapolis Colts at Super Bowl XLIV. In 2012, a year after Gleason revealed that he was battling ALS, the team unveiled a statue of his famous play outside of the stadium where it happened.