The Saints

The Gumbotron

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please turn your attention to the Rouses Markets Gumbotron”

As with all great legends, the details of the Gumbotron’s origins are obscured in the mists of time, but what we know for sure is this: It began with two friends and some beer. Alfredo Nogueira, the executive chef of VALS and Cure, both on Freret Street in New Orleans, and Cane & Table on Decatur Street in the French Quarter (not to imply that the French Quarter isn’t part of New Orleans…), was talking to his friend Charlie Schott, the beverage director for Parson’s Chicken and Fish, a theme restaurant of the Land and Sea Dept., a concept development firm in Chicago, about Saints football and the jumbotron, when one asked the other, simply: “Why isn’t it called the Gumbotron?”

Every stadium has a jumbotron of some sort. It is the giant scoreboard the crowd turns to for replays and close-ups. At the Superdome, the two end zone boards that loom over the maximum capacity crowd are among the longest in the National Football League —they are longer, in fact, than the football field itself. The panels are 333 feet wide and 38 feet tall, in glorious high definition. They were installed in 2016, part of a $40 million upgrade to the stadium and the adjacent Smoothie King Center.

Calling it the Gumbotron made perfect sense. Gumbo is the name of one of the two mascots of the New Orleans Saints — the cherubic, masked St. Bernard character (though, long ago, Gumbo was an actual St. Bernard dog who terrorized visiting teams — he was a gift from the Louisiana Restaurant Association before the very first regular season game of the Saints in 1967). Moreover, gumbo is the official state cuisine of Louisiana — officially since 2004, but unofficially for centuries. It is a dish that unites the entire Gulf Coast. Even the melting pot culture of the state has often been described as a gumbo. As if that weren’t enough: For many, gumbo is synonymous with family. Every family has its own spin on the regional cuisine, and everyone’s mom makes the best gumbo you’ve ever had.

A few weeks after the term was coined, Fredo’s brother, WDSU media specialist Juan Nogueira, mentioned it to someone at Rouses Markets. Marcy Nathan, Rouses creative director, vowed to make it a reality.

The timing was perfect. Donny Rouse, the CEO of Rouses Markets, was already working with Gayle Benson to once again make Rouses the official supermarket of the New Orleans Saints (the partnership had been paused when the stores had to focus all their energies on keeping the shelves stocked during COVID). The magazine team was already working on this issue, which was appropriately themed around gumbo. It was a no-brainer, and practically preordained!

And it meant a lot to the Rouses team. Part of it is that Rouses means local. It’s one thing for a national chain to put up billboards for whatever city’s sports team it happens to have a store near. But Rouses Markets was born in Louisiana, and over the last 60+ years has expanded across the Gulf Coast. It is now part of communities in Mississippi and Alabama too, where Saints fans are legion. Rouses country has always been, and always will be, Saints country.

When Bobby “Cajun Cannon” Hebert, former New Orleans Saints quarterback, founder of the Who Dat Nation, and host of Sports Talk on WWL (the flagship station of the New Orleans Saints), first heard about it, he understood immediately why the community would not only embrace the term, but keep it going. “This is pure Gulf Coast,” he said.

“You couldn’t have a Gumbotron in Minnesota. It wouldn’t make sense for Carolina. The bottom line is: Whether you are Cajun or Creole, whether you are from Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, gumbo is in your DNA, just like the Saints are. Everyone else can have their jumbotron. The Who Dat Nation? We’ll take our Gumbotron. It’s unique, just like us.” – Bobby Hebert

Gumbotron isn’t an official and imposed name by the Saints or the NFL, but who cares? A concept like this is just the sort of fun that Saints fans expect. Anyone else remember the Buddy D. Parade? Or when Seth Green — yes, that Seth Green — was made the unofficial mascot in the early 1990s? (Cha-ching!) And Saints fans have a lot of experience naming things after gumbo. Just ask the team’s beloved, furry mascot. What is his name? Of course it’s Gumbo, and guess who named him. You did, in a contest in 1967.