On my flight back home from London I happened to sit next to Dawn Hopkins. Dawn is 42 years old and has been a Saints fan all of her life. She lived in Lakeview before Katrina changed that and is now a resident of Slidell. Her passion for the black and gold is so deep that it's gotten her into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. I had the chance to ask her a few questions about being a fan and the team this year.
CSC: Please tell us your accomplishments as a Saints fan?
DH: I was Ultimate Saints Fan of the year in 2003 which means I am enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. They have since stopped doing that in 2004 but those of us belong to an organization called Professional Football Ultimate Fan Association (www.pfufa.org). They just selected people to induct again this year after losing their sponsorship. I am also on the board of The Touchdown Club of New Orleans (www.tdcno.org). I was a board member of the New Orleans Saints boosters until it folded.
CSC: How can one become a member of The Touchdown Club?
DH: You have to fill out an application and be sponsored by two current members.
CSC: How long have you been a Saints fan?
DH: All my life. From 1991 to 1993 I moved to Indianapolis where my ex-husband was a color sergeant in the Marines and carried the American flag out for every Colts game. I would watch the Saints games on a small TV while sitting on the Colts bench.
CSC: What is your first memory as a Saints fan?
DH: I just enjoyed going to the games when I was 10. They were always fun.
CSC: What is your fondest memory as a Saints fan?
DH: Re-opening of the Superdome. (laughs)
CSC: Why are you a Saints fan? What do you get out of it?
DH: I love football. The New Orleans Saints are my home team. It’s exciting. It’s fun.
CSC: Do you have season tickets? How long have you had them?
DH: Yes. I got them at the end of the 2003 season when I moved back home.
CSC: How many away games do you attend a year?
DH: Usually three.
CSC: What is your favorite away stadium to attend a game at?
CSC: Who has the nicest fans? The worst?
DH: Indiannapolis has the nicest. Chicago, by far, has the worst.
CSC: Which division rival do you hate the most?
DH: Atlanta. But I hate Dallas the most.
CSC: How did you feel when the Saints crushed them in '06?
DH: I was there. It was awesome.
CSC: What sort of Saints memorabilia would I find in your house? What are some of the more interesting Saints things you own?
DH: I lost it all during Katrina in Lakeview. I had 9 jerseys that the players actually wore on the field. Some had blood stains. I also had a 4 inch thick binder filled with autographed football cards.
CSC: How much money would you say you spend on the Saints during one year?
DH: $8,000 - $10,000
CSC: What has been your favorite season so far?
CSC: Who is your favorite current Saints player?
DH: (Curses) I guess Drew Brees. I have quite a few. Charles Grant. Deuce. Zach Strief. Pierre Thomas.
CSC: Who is your favorite Saints player of all time?
DH: Linebacker Mark Fields.
CSC: That’s unusual. Why him?
DH: Meeting him as a Saints player he was always friendly. He always talked to us. He gave us his jersey. He was a great player.
CSC: Best Saints coach of all time?
DH: Sean Payton.
CSC: Have you met him?
DH: (Nods) He was very friendly and he will autograph stuff but if you see him on game day he is very focused and he won’t say much.
CSC: What do you think about his coaching this season?
DH: Fairly good. Sometimes he made some crazy calls but the players need to execute what he calls no matter what it is.
CSC: What other contact have you had with Saints players?
DH: Normally when I travel with the Saints I stay at the team hotel. Every Tuesday before the game The Touchdown Club has a meeting and one or two players attend. I am also on the board of A Childs Wish of Greater New Orleans. A lot of the children wish to meet the Saints players.
CSC: Who is the nicest Saints player you‘ve met?
DH: It’s gotta be Deuce McAllister.
CSC: Do you have any interesting or funny stories?
DH: I was at a benefit that Deuce and McKenzie were having for a former Saints employee who needed a transplant. I was going to get some photos autographed for my nieces school. McKenzie yelled, "You don’t need any more autographs. Hey Deuce, look who's in line. Does she need anymore autographs?" Deuce started laughing.
CSC: Do you have any advice for Saints fans who would like to take their fanhood to the next level?
DH: Just be loyal to the team and be cordial to the people who come from other cities. That is the motto of PFUFA.
CSC: What is your opinion on the International Series game and the NFL’s attempted expansion into the UK?
DH: It was positive. They did a good job for the tailgate. They gave them the feel of New Orleans which should help us bring visitors. The only thing I didn’t like was that you had to stay seated during the game.
CSC: Do you think the International Series will be successful in its attempts to gain new foreign fans?
DH: (Hesitates) It might. But they will have to do it differently than what they did for the European league. I also don’t think the United States teams are going to like traveling so far.
CSC: Would you care to share any thoughts about the current Deuce fiasco?
DH: I hope it’s not true and they don’t suspend him.
CSC: What would you like to see the Saints do to improve this season?
DH: The offensive line to block better for Drew Brees and our DB’s to get with it.
CSC: What are your predictions for the second half the season? Playoffs?
DH: 6-2. Yes to the playoffs.