For the last week and a half, the Who Dat Nation has been in mourning while honoring and remembering late Saints owner Tom Benson; who passed away at the age of 90.
Dignitaries from a wide variety of professional sports and entertainment entities descended upon South Louisiana to pay their final respects; and in the true fashion and local tradition of Benson's beloved hometown, he was sent off to his final resting place with a "Second Line" / jazz funeral tribute truly befitting of the man who some considered to be the most influential man ever in the city of New Orleans' soon-to-be 300 year history.
But as in most cases when we lose someone very dear to us, the period of mourning is eventually overtaken by a sense of acknowledgement that indeed, it's time to move on with our own lives; all the while still keeping the warm memories of that departed loved one, close to our hearts and forever in our minds.
Thomas Milton Benson — or "Mr. B" as he was known to those he knew best — was a New Orleans icon, hero, and living legend; and they'll never be another person to come along and make such an indelible impact on so many lives in so many ways, in the manner that he did.
He leaves behind a loving and devoted wife, a self-made multi-billion dollar business empire (built mostly upon his "starting from the ground up" ownership of a handful of car dealerships based in Texas and Louisiana), and two New Orleans pro sports teams (the NFL Saints and the NBA Pelicans) that still will continue operate and play their games well into the forseeable future following his untimely departure from this world.
But for the most prized of all of his possessions — the Saints professional football franchise where he was universally beloved by the players, front office executives, and employees — the remainder of the year 2018 will likely be spent with one clear goal (or a 'mission') in mind for the team, the entire organization, and its super-passionate fan-base:
Win the Super Bowl title for "Mr. B".
And the fact that the next Super Bowl (Super Bowl LIII) will be played in the still-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, Georgia — home of the Saints' bitter arch-rivals the Falcons — would certainly make it seem all the much sweeter.
As we know: New Orleans was only 10 seconds away from making it to the NFC Championship Game when they last played, and with a solid off-season thus far, the Saints would appear poised to further build upon their successful season last year that saw them win the tough and hard-fought NFC South Division with an (11-5) record.
With the notable exception of Drew Brees, who just turned age 39 a few months ago, this current Saints roster has slowly morphed into one of the League's youngest and most talented in the past 2 seasons, thanks mostly in part to the deft maneuvering of General Manager Mickey Loomis and Director of College Scouting Jeff Ireland.
And with 2018 NFL Free Agency still going on and the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft just one more month away, the Saints have an opportunity to even further upgrade their chances of getting to the Big Game next February.
These next few months will likely seem like the longest and most tedious passage of time ever for the entire Saints organization and their fans, as they eagerly await the start of a season that unquestionably will be dedicated to the man who was (and still is) held in high regard by so many that were either personal friends or knew who he was.
"Mr. B." touched the lives of all of us, even those who never had the chance to actually meet him in person.
His legacy will endure forever and ever — long after his passing, and most likely long after that of our very own.
And there would be no greater way to honor that legacy, by going out and winning the Super Bowl in your arch-rival's own home stadium.
Mark it down: the entire Saints organization from top to bottom, will have one goal in mind when they open the 2018 NFL season on the 2nd weekend of September.
Which is to pick up from where they left off the last time that they played, and finish off the job that began in earnest last season.