It’s no secret that there are few things New Orleanians hold closer to their hearts than religious figures and football. Lionel Alphonso, Sr., is living proof of both. Since 1987, his papal costumery and semi-stately demeanor
as Da Pope have been charming fans and cameras, and bringing the New Orleans Saints more than just luck.
Alphonso’s initial inspiration came after the real Pope visited his fair city back in 1987. The visit was legendary,
but what stood out to him was that, in the midst of a losing season, the Pope’s visit was immediately followed by
an important Saints win. And so, on that very next game day, Da Pope was born. Since then, this Saints Super
Fan’s calling has brought him countless colorful moments, including being greeted by thousands of devoted fans
from a South Beach balcony during the 2010 Super Bowl, and being named the country’s #1 Super Fan.
Game day for this Holy Father begins at 7 a.m., donning his costume (the vestments all lovingly sewn by his
wife), his “Pope hat” and his infectiously positive attitude. Alphonso’s day job, the proprietor of a popular
watering hole known as “Da Pope’s Launch and Tavern,” is itself a shrine to the Saints, where locals gather to
watch the game, and where Da Pope has also joined the area priest in blessing fleets along the adjacent
Thirty years is a long time to reign over something as important as all this. But, no worry. Alphonso’s already anticipating the next Super Fan generation—that’s when his son, affectionately known as Pope Jr., will watch over The Dome’s salvation after having studied under this master.