SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Victory was just as sweet for Saints fans far from the Big Easy.
The team’s Super Bowl win was met with an eruption of cheers from across the Pacific region, where U.S. military bases broadcast the Monday morning game.
For many, the championship — cemented by New Orleans’ second-half push against the Indianapolis Colts — was a long time coming and still somewhat bittersweet years after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s a sign of hope for the city and shows the world that nothing can hold us back,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andres Eguigure, a New Orleans native who works in the security department at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
Saints fans at Sasebo Naval Base in western Japan hugged and danced as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter and the win became inevitable.
Lt. Christopher Vincentti and a group of other sailors from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 out of Gulfport, Miss., which is just across the state border from New Orleans, had followed the Saints since an earlier victory in the playoffs.
“Shock and awe,” Vincentti said. “We finally got a winning season.”
Hundreds turned out for Super Bowl Monday parties and gatherings in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea and elsewhere. The annual events amount to an unofficial holiday for many that gives servicemembers and others living overseas a chance to gather for the game despite an inconvenient time difference.
It was Seaman Recruit Edward Miles’ first Super Bowl overseas and away from home, but looking around the decorated banquet hall in Sasebo, he said he felt at home.
“This is my new family,” said Miles, 18, a Pompano Beach, Fla., resident stationed aboard the USS Harpers Ferry. “My family back home and my family overseas are the same now.”
For others, the morning was not about rivalries or long-sought championships but about a chance to kick back and enjoy the game.
“I just came out here just to watch some football and hang out,” said Staff Sgt. David Hamlin, at the Main Post Club at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.
Many bases set up large projection screens, served food and gave away prizes throughout the game. At Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, partygoers competed in a touchdown-dance competition at halftime.
For Maj. Kyle Brede, this year’s Super Bowl party at Camp Zama, Japan, was a big improvement over the 2 a.m. broadcast he caught last year in Iraq.
“The Zama community club does a great show,” he said. “I haven’t seen any kind of Super Bowl party like this (before).”
Stars and Stripes reporters Travis J. Tritten, David Carter, Grant Okubo, Matt Orr and Alfredo Jimenez contributed to this story.