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Shreveport Welcomes Saints With Open Arms

James Taylor and Jimmy Swain reached the Shreveport Convention Center at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Never mind the Saints' Championship Tour event didn't begin until 10 a.m. What's another hour when you've waited this long?

"I've been waiting on it for 33 years," Taylor said.

When the doors opened, Taylor and Swain saw a virtual Who Dat Christmas in July.

On their left was the Lombardi Trophy, given to the Saints for winning the Super Bowl in February. Straight ahead was the Halas Trophy, given to the Saints for winning the NFC championship. In the middle of the room, there was a Super Bowl ring display.

All of this from a team that went decades before winning its first playoff game. Of course, those lean early years are what makes this championship different than most.

This was a championship that meant as much, if not more, to the fans as it did the players, coaches and front office.

The fact the team is sharing the experience with fans around the state and Gulf South speaks to the bond between the team and fans.

This being Shreveport, not everyone at Thursday's event was a Who Dat.

Starla Edwards chaperoned a group of children from the Calvary Missionary Baptist Freedom Schools. Asked if there were any Dallas Cowboys fans in the group, Edwards replied, "Oh, yeah."

For a day at least, the Cowboys fans had to endure a Saints celebration.

Years ago, this was a Cowboys town. They had the glitz and glamor while the Saints were stumbling and bumbling. The Cowboys won five Super Bowls before the Saints won a playoff game.

When there was a television scheduling conflict, KMSS routinely picked the Cowboys game to show instead of the Saints. The Saints fans were in the minority, but they were a vocal minority.

Thursday's show of strength from Who Dat Nation may signify a change in Shreveport-Bossier City's NFL loyalties.

Everyone loves a winner and Shreveport-Bossier City is no exception.

Saints officials estimate 8,000 people came through the Convention Center doors to see the Lombardi Trophy and more. That's 1,000 people per hour the exhibit was open.

"It's been awesome," Saints administrative director Jay Romig said. "It's been constant. It's been like this (packed) all day."

If the Saints haven't caught or passed the Cowboys in popularity in Shreveport-Bossier City, then they are real close.

And Thursday's tour stop did nothing but help the Saints in a market that has always been tricky for the team. Shreveport is closer to Dallas than New Orleans, but it is located in Louisiana and not Texas. Thus the complications of owning this market for the Saints.

"Sometimes people think this might be a split market with the Cowboys," Saints vice president of marketing and business development Ben Hales said. "I can tell you we don't think that way. Based on our turnout and the jerseys and everything you see here, this looks like it is Saints country to us.'

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