A Lifelong Saints Fan’s Struggle with “Who Dat”

There’s a lot about football that is simply barbaric: it’s physical, sweaty, dirty and and you can verbally direct almost any player at any time by yelling “Hit him!” It’s not exactly a fine art, but despite this glaring baseness, football in general and the New Orleans Saints in particular are among the things most dear to me.

Like any good fan, I follow every game in real time, I live-tweet touchdown passes and defensive collapses, I visit scary (read: Oakland”) away games in Saints gear and I even own an Aaron Brooks jersey as proof that I was there when it wasn’t so sexy. When the Saints first appeared in the Super Bowl a few years ago, I invested a large sum of money to be at the game a few rows away from the action, celebrating with the players. I like the Saints, it’s an important part of my life. You get it.

Which is exactly why I have such a hard time saying this: I hate the phrase “Who Dat.”

Hate it.

Who Dat Saints Grammatically, “Who Dat” is supposed to be some kind of Bayou-ey Louisiana Cajun redneck shorthand way of saying “Who is that that says they are going to beat the Saints?” It’s what happens when a bad sentence devolves into a grammatically abhorrent one. A mistake within a mistake. A bad translation of a corrupt collection of words. A bad dream inside a bad dream.

Saints nation loves “Who Dat.” It’s a cheer, a statement of pride, a collective noun and a general way to identify with the team. Hell, Louisiana-based Sonic restaurants are even offering a Who Dat burger, with the phrase and fleur-de-lis literally printed on top the sandwich. It’s a statement of pride that boasts, “I don’t care if I sound stupid saying it, I’m a Saints fan.”

Honestly, what is “Who Dat” really even saying? Even if you cleaned up the original sentence to “Who says they are going to be the Saints?” it’s still not very threatening. It’s not even really supportive of the Saints either. It’s sort of just clearing something up. It’s supposed to express an attitude of “Oh, you say you are going to beat the Saints, well I’ve never heard of you,” but what fan hasn’t heard of the other teams? There are only 31 of them.

I don’t have any problem with being proud of supporting a team, the problem is that I don’t agree that you have to sacrifice intelligence to do it. When it comes down to it, the “Who Dat” conundrum pits my favorite football team against the language that I speak, and for me, the winner is grammar. I’ve been running from “Who Dat” for years and the time has finally come for me to officially denounce it.

As we roll into the first NFL weekend of the 2014 season, I’ll be cheering for my team and hope you all are cheering for yours. But please, do it in a grammatically responsible way.

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