Saints fans line up before games to try on Super Bowl ring
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — By 2010, the New Orleans Saints' big year, Barra Birrcher was retired.
Birrcher had spent 36 years behind the scenes with the Saints when he bowed out in 2007. He did everything from running the 1980s version of a marketing department (one guy and a secretary) to rounding up talent for halftime shows and hiring police escorts for the team.
Birrcher came on in 1971, the same year as Archie Manning. The years that followed were often rough for a sports fan and a company man, a dyed-in-the-wool New Orleanian who graduated from Jesuit High School in 1956. The Saints lost. A lot.
But when the team's fortunes changed, owner Tom Benson himself made sure there were seats at the Super Bowl for retiree Birrcher and his wife, Kay, at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
And when the Saints beat the Colts to win the championship, Benson made sure that loyal lifetimer Birrcher got the ultimate trophy: A Super Bowl ring.
"We had our life's dream fulfilled by seeing that game," said Birrcher, 80.
It was a joy he just couldn't keep to himself. So, at home games, you'll find Birrcher in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Hall of Fame, giving a long line of fans the chance to try on the ring for themselves.
The 14-karat yellow gold bauble weighs in at more than 2 ounces. It's encrusted with diamonds around a fleur-de-lis, and engraved with team mottos and the score and date of the fateful Super Bowl, XLIV.
In the bustling Hall of Fame before a recent preseason game, fans snapped selfies with the trophy, the women holding it to their cheek, the men making a fist near their jaw.
"Some people are just so in awe of it. Some people get kind of silly. I think the young children don't quite understand the impact of it," Birrcher said philosophically.
Whatever the case may be, he enjoys sharing the love.
"I was very fortunate to get a ring from Mr. Benson," he said. "And it's a nice thing to share the ring with everybody, because we feel it belongs to everybody."
Birrcher is a member of the board of directors of the Saints Hall of Fame, which he notes is an independent organization not connected to the NFL team. Despite being retired, he is booked up with obligations to the Kiwanis and Lions clubs. He's especially proud of a project the Lions do every fall, screening kids free of charge for eye problems.
But not much beats a 36-year career with his hometown football team, capped off by the heart-stopping victory and the ultimate dazzling souvenir.
"After the season, it goes into the lockbox. I don't wear it. It's very heavy," he said.
Another fan held out her hand for the ring.
"When the light hits it right," Birrcher said, "It really blings."
Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com