So many people remember you from your time here at WWL-TV back in the ‘90s, you’ve been all over the world Hoda but yet you still consider yourself a New Orleanian and love the Saints.
“I think New Orleans is one of those places…it will be with me. It’s like a love affair that I’ll have for the rest of my life. It’s sort of like when the city hurts, you hurt and when the city celebrates, you celebrate. I remember so clearly the year we won the Super Bowl. I was on the field because I was covering it for NBC. I remember thinking this may be one of the best moments on earth because the entire nation saw us on our knees through a hurricane and then the entire nation got to watch us elevated to the highest point possible, right there on the national stage.
“I thought it was picture perfect. I think New Orleans gets in your blood. The Saints never leave it when they get in there. It’s funny because I walk around Manhattan and people say ‘Hey, Go Saints!’ There are tons of Saints fans here too.”
You’re passionate about the Saints and your partner on the today show is married into football. Tell me about your awkward conversations about football with Kathy Lee Gifford.
“Kathy Lee and Frank, and I love Frank a lot, Kathy Lee is a Giants fans, obviously. We would like to say one thing about the Giants this year, so sad. I mean you can’t have everything. We love it that Eli (Manning) is connected with us. Frank has gotten past that. He just sits back and watches the game. I’m going to try my hardest to get her on the Saints bandwagon before this is all said and done. She’s inching ever closer. When we beat Seattle and we continue to move on, I promise you I will have Kathy Lee Gifford in a Saints jersey even if it kills me.”
“I try my best. You know when you live in another city and they show you regional games so you’ll see the Giants or the Jets. Often the way it works here is you go to a sports bar and they have every single area carved out. I have to tell you, it’s funny I feel this way in a sports bar whether or not New Orleans fans are wearing their colors or if I go to the airport.
"I promise you I could pick which terminal is going to New Orleans just based on looking at the terminal. There is always laughter…I don’t care if it’s a delayed flight. There is always someone telling a story. There is always someone eating something good. It’s easy to point out. The way I watch games here is I like to have a couple of friends over and watch it in my apartment because I like to go crazy. Going to a bar is my second favorite because it’s fun to be around other people who are wearing the black and gold and feel it, really feel it. They are just jumping on.”
Do you wear anything special for game day?
“You know what’s fun, Karen (Swensen) and I would each wear this charm necklace that we would switch off back and forth because it gave us good luck and that was always our tradition. It’s funny you bring that up because I remember that so clearly, us sitting in a bar in New Orleans, rubbing those charms. You always think that somehow you have something to do with it. Now, I just have black and gold running through me so I figure that ought to do it. Every time is a nail biter.
In light of the material that you have written on in your two books, what do you think binds a city to a team?
“I think it’s because anything can happen in life. I think when you watch an unlikely team make it all the way to the end, you think to yourself ‘wow if they can do that, maybe I can do this’ and you watch guys who are out of gas and totally exhausted and you think there is not one more inch of energy in them and somehow at the end of the fourth quarter they find their reserve tank that we all know we have somewhere when we’re completely lost. Or you see the cocky arrogant team who is winning everything beating their chest and suddenly two bad plays later, it’s over and they are out.
“I think to me, I’ve always thought sports are just full of life lessons for people and its full of dreams for people who wonder if something is possible. When the Saints won the Super Bowl we went from the Aints to Super Bowl Champs and it’s America. Everything is possible. Everything can change. It’s uplifting. It’s amazing. It joins us together. I’m depressed when we lose. I feel depressed. I get blue Monday. I get the whole thing. I’m so excited when we win. I just feel like there is something so unique .”