According to our dear friend Daniel Webster, the word “rivalry” is derived from the Latin word rivallis.
The word, first used almost 400 years before the Superdome was built, was a word used to describe bodies of water. Eventually, as time went on, the word evolved from being about water to a favorite word for Shakespeare, as noted in a passage from Two Gentleman of Verona
My foolish rival, that her father likes / Only for his possessions are so huge, / Is gone with her along; and I must after, / For love, thou know’st, is full of jealousy.
— Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1623
But this is not about Shakespeare or bodies of water.
Nor is it about rival lovers quarreling in the neutral ground on Canal Street during Mardi Gras.
On Sunday afternoon, for the 98th time, the New Orleans Saints will square off against the hated Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, a showdown that has been on the mind of the Who Dat Nation since the infamous game in the drunken erector set that is the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7th.
“To me,” WWL-TV Saints writer Ralph Marlborough said, “this is the biggest regular season game for the franchise since the 1983 Saints-Rams showdown.”
In 1983, the Saints, sitting at 8-7, had a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. On the final weekend of the 1983 season, the Rams paid a visit to the Superdome.
With the score 24-23 in favor of the Saints, Rams kicker Mike Lansford kicked a 42-yard field goal to give the Rams the 26-23 victory and shut the Saints out of the playoff picture.
“Old school Saint fans will tell you how painful that loss was,” blogger Andrew Juge said, “If the Saints win that game, it would have meant so much, especially in a dark period for the team.”
With key injuries to players like Kenny Vaccaro, who was placed on injured reserve this week, Juge mentioned safety Vonn Bell.
“His snap count has been between 40-80% depending on the game,” he said, “However, everyone on defense has to do their part on Sunday.”
That same train of thought was echoed by Emily Holly.
“The whole defensive unit needs to be ready on Sunday,” she said.
Apart from football reasons, Saint fans love to hate the Falcons, especially in the years since Katrina.
“To this day,” Candice Wright said, “there’s a segment of Falcon fans and even some of the players have made comments about we went through in 2005. One thing about New Orleanians we have no problem putting someone in their place when we feel like we’ve been attacked. There’s trash talking and then there’s what some of their fans do.”
Despite the fact that there’s been some memorable games in this rivalry, such as the 2006 return to the Superdome as well as handing the Falcons their first loss in both 2012 and 2015, Sunday’s game is shaping up to be the greatest matchup in the long history of the rivalry and according to Marlborough, would be an early Christmas gift.
“A win Sunday would not only guarantee the division for the Saints, but put the Falcons on a tough road to get into the playoffs. Come Sunday, it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere inside the Superdome.”