New Orleans — A dozen weary police officers, on duty since before Hurricane Katrina hit, clustered around a police car for a rare break Sunday - and listened to the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers.
"Man, this is what we needed," said James Porter, a patrol officer. "This almost makes you feel normal again."
Porter had rigged up a television on the front passenger seat. But the televised game was Denver-Miami. It was ignored, while the radio broadcast of the Saints game was what everyone focused on.
Porter said he lost his house and all his possessions in the flood that followed Katrina.
"It's all gone," he said. "I'm homeless."
At the police staging area under the downtown Harrah's Casino canopy, officer Derek Brunfield was listening to the game on the radio of the Mobile Police Command Center.
"LSU won last night, and now the Saints are up," Brunfield said. "Things are definitely looking up."
Flood waters still cover Brunfield's house.
"My family's safe, so things aren't as bad as they could be," he said.
Bud Hawkins, a truck driver who had just delivered a load of ice, sat on the steps of Harrah's listening to a small portable radio.
"It's LSU on Saturday and the Saints on Sunday," Hawkins said. "Man, those Tigers gave everybody a shot in the arm last night. Now, the Saints are capping it off."
At a small bar on Bourbon Street, where a Saints football helmet was painted on the ceiling, Steve Bartley was among several French Quarter residents listening to the Saints game on a battery-powered radio.
In Houston, Saints fans got a chance to watch their team open the NFL season on large TV screens in the Astrodome and Reliant Center, which are housing more than 4,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
"It's to give them a chance to feel a little bit at home," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Joe Leonard, area commander for Houston shelter operations. "And some of them might actually be Saints fans."
Added Carlos Packnett, who got out of New Orleans on Sept. 1: "People need this to feel normal again. It's good to have some Sunday football."
At the game, any Saints fans entering Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte was handed worry beads, a New Orleans tradition. Bank of America contributed $100,000 to hurricane relief.
Outside Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Dolphins coach Nick Saban's wife, Terry, led a collection effort to aid Katrina victims that included cheerleaders, Dolphins alumni, staff and players' and coaches' wives. Saban joined the Dolphins after coaching at LSU in Baton Rouge, where the Saints are expected to play some home games this year.
In Kansas City, Senia Shields, wife of Chiefs Pro Bowl guard Will Shields, and Miss Kansas, Adrienne Rosel, were among those collecting donations for hurricane victims outside the stadium. The Chiefs said Friday that players had committed $150,000 to relief efforts.