New Orleans Saints: A Hat, A Team, A Super Bowl


Ryan McFarland wears a hat on his head to hide the fact that he is bald. The monster called cancer, which has claimed so much of his life, has also taken his once thick, brown hair by way of chemotherapy.

The hat isn’t just your run of the mill hat, no, a fleur-de-lis adorns the front of the black cap. Ryan’s mom bought the hat for him last Christmas, shortly after he started losing his hair.

The hat was placed firmly on his head as he watched the Saints rout the Cardinals in the second week of the NFL playoffs.

The hat witnessed Brett Favre throw a late interception to Tracy Porter, the hat was there when Garrett Hartley knocked the football thru the Superdome air and between the goalposts, sending the team to their first ever Super Bowl.

Ryan doesn’t remember much about the game, he was sick that night and it all seems like a blur but he knows what the outcome was and he’ll never forget the numbers, “31-17”, those numbers were the ones on the scoreboard after the final whistle had sounded.

"That night was, it was purely amazing, the parts I remember, it was simply the best thing I’ve experienced in awhile, Ryan says."

The McFarland’s lost their home in Lakeview to Katrina’s surging, black waters and with Ryan’s illness, they haven’t been able to make it back to Louisiana yet but they hope to come home someday.

For now, they make their home in enemy territory, about 50 miles away from Atlanta, home of the archrival Atlanta Falcons.

"Drew Brees and Sean Payton are great guys, to do what they have done for the city, along with the rest of the team, it’s just awesome! You don’t see this everywhere,” Ryan’s mom says. We go to the store and see Falcons’ fans and say “Who Dat!” to them and they can’t stand it even though they beat us and all,” she says with a smile coming to her face. She continues, His doctor says that his chances of beating the cancer are about 75% so we’re pretty glad about that, I know he’ll beat it, and he knows he’ll beat it. Just like Drew and the Saints."

Ryan sits in a chair in the corner of the room, the hat on his head, as ESPN plays on the television. He appears to be falling asleep until Malcolm Jenkins picks off Sam Bradford and returns the interception for a 96 yard touchdown on the television screen.

His eyes fly open and a smile crosses his face.

Later, as he drifts off to the sleep that he had forsaken earlier, he softly mutters the words, “Who Dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints!”

Who dat, indeed.

Check out Keith Null’s weekly article about the Saints on by clicking here.

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