If this was indeed a funeral, it was a joyous one — the only way New Orleans knows how to bury its dead.
Don Levet arrived there early Saturday night, sitting in Section 113 of the Smoothie King Center like he always does.
His personal streak reached 81.
That’s how many consecutive New Orleans VooDoo games Levet has watched in the team’s nine seasons in the Big Easy.
Chances are, his streak may not ever get to 82.
The regular season home finale may just have well been the franchise’s home finale.
The Arena Football League announced on Tuesday that it was taking over control of the VooDoo, leaving gloom for many of the fans who may have showed up to pay their respects to the franchise one last time.
“Once the game starts, I might cry the whole time,” Levet said.
The Graveyard, as they call the Smoothie King Center for VooDoo games, may have very well been just that Saturday night: a burial of a franchise that struggled in attendance this season.
“It was a bum feeling all day,” Joshua Dean said. “I knew I was coming to the game, but I also knew it was probably the last one.”
A crowd like the one Saturday night, estimated at about 5,000, would have perhaps helped save the franchise that was averaging a franchise-low 3,839 fans for home games this season. Attendance at VooDoo games has dropped in four of the past five seasons.
More wins like Saturday’s 65-53 victory over the Tampa Bay Storm also perhaps would have helped. It was just the third win of the season.
But it may now be too late.
Larry Matrana of Gretna, who brings his grandson, Eden Berthlot, to every game, thinks so.
“This is it, they’re done,” Matrana said. “I hope not, but I think this is the last one. My grandson and I said before the game that this is probably our last one.”
Levet, who sat just a few rows down from Matrana, is a bit more optimistic. He likes his chances of extending his streak to 82 next season.
“It’s not over yet,” Levet said. “There will be another team here, but it probably won’t be the VooDoo. We want a team here. The fans didn’t leave this organization. The owners left us.”
Levet is particularly fond of the VooDoo because he is a sports fanatic, and he can be one without burning a hole in his wallet.
“Where else can you go and your kids can get on the field and meet the players and the cheerleaders and the coach?” Levet said. “You can’t do that with the Saints. It would cost you an arm and a leg.”
Mark Palmer sat on the second row, also in Section 113.
Palmer, an entrepreneur from Austin, Texas, is a potential buyer of the team. He liked what he saw.
“I think the crowd is great, and I love the fan interaction and the whole VooDoo concept with the graveyard,” Palmer said.
Unfortunately for those in New Orleans, Palmer would move the team to Austin.
“We don’t have one now, but we would love to have a franchise in Austin,” Palmer said.
That, of course, would be heartbreaking for fans like Levet, Dean and Matrana.
Dean, nicknamed Pope Clown, is a diehard fan who has missed just two games in franchise history. He dressed in a mask for every game and was named Arena Football League’s Fan of the Year in 2014.
Saturday night, he sported a ring that he was presented for being Fan of the Year.
The Fan of the Year might not have a team to cheer for in 2016.
“I’m sad about it,” he said. “It’s sad because I don’t see this as just a team. This is my family.”
He watched that family walk off the field for what may have been the last time Saturday night.
A sign that read “Welcome To The Graveyard” hung to the left of where the VooDoo exited.
That sign is usually for the visitors.
On this night, it may have been just as fitting for the home team.