The relationship between a city and its professional football franchise can be a true “Love/Hate” relationship. All you need to do is listen to the local sports talk shows to hear it. Fans wear their passion on their sleeves and the glory and heartache of being an NFL fan has turned into a year-round phenomenon. But as frustrated as many people can get, the bond between fan and franchise is one that, in almost all cases, is impossible to break.
How Joe Horn Helped Save the New Orleans Saints
When many NFL fans outside of New Orleans think of former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the flashy, outspoken player who had a touchdown celebration which included a cell phone. With weekly antics from fellow wide receivers Terrell Owens, Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, and the like, Horn seemed to fall into that same mold. The Joe Horn that Saints fans know, however, is someone much different; someone who may have saved the very franchise they live and die with every Sunday.
Joe Horn, who was recently on the Under the Dome Podcast with Allen Ulrich and Sean Williams, reflected on the state of the Saints franchise after the effects of Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005. “I was told, and the whole world was told that the dome would probably be blew up, no one would ever play in the dome again and it’s a great possibility that the New Orleans Saints would soon be the San Antonio Saints,” Horn said. “Although the blueprint was being drawn up for us to stay in San Antonio, my heart and my soul was talking to the commissioner at the time (Paul Tagliabue) to let him know that it would not be fair.”
A Broken City, But Not a Broken Spirit
Horn was speaking on behalf of a New Orleans fan base that was too busy picking up the pieces of their broken lives to speak for themselves. It was believed that the ties that owner Tom Benson had with the city of San Antonio would be the deciding factors in moving a franchise that like so many of its fans was, in fact, homeless. Joe Horn not only spoke to Tagliabue about the effect relocating the franchise would have on a recovering city, he also brought the effect relocation would have on him personally.
“If the New Orleans Saints organization did not come back to rebuild that city and play in that dome again, I would retire and never play again,” Horn emphasized. “That’s something no one really knows about. They don’t know that story.”
There is no doubt that if the pleading on behalf of the Big Easy didn’t move the commissioner, Horn’s stance was sure to.
Joe Horn’s Super Bowl Ring
Horn’s connection to the Crescent City, by his own admission, runs deep. “Every time I ride across the bridge and every time I see that dome, although I don’t have a Super Bowl ring on my finger, in my heart of hearts, I know that that dome is my house,” he stated. “No matter who moves in, no matter who stays there, no matter who wins a Super Bowl ring there. They’re gonna be there and then they’re gonna move their bags out and go back home when their career is over. When Joe Horn comes to New Orleans, I can look at that dome and know that’s MY ring for life. Because I know in my heart of hearts I was a big reason for the New Orleans Saints coming back to the city.”
Hosts Ulrich and Williams spoke on behalf of the city in stating that the feeling was mutual. Joe Horn loves New Orleans. New Orleans loves Joe Horn. Regarding that mutual love, Horn concluded, “When I die, I want my ashes spread over the city of New Orleans. That’s how much I love Louisiana. That’s how much I love the city.”
Horn, despite being out of the league for ten years now, is still among the greatest to ever wear the black and gold. He currently ranks in the top three in franchise history in receptions (523), receiving yards (7,622) and receiving touchdowns (50). The next logical step for the New Orleans Saints is to add Horn’s name to a Ring of Honor which includes Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson, Willie Roaf and Morten Andersen. Whether or not that happens, the Mercedes Benz Superdome, after Horn’s story circulates, may soon be referred to as, “The House that Horn Rebuilt.”