NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Who Dat Nation celebrates the Saints battling to the playoffs, but for team owner Gayle Benson the experience is bittersweet. She’s sad her late husband can’t witness the team’s success this season. She got away from it all a couple of weeks before her first playoff game without Tom Benson.
“It’s peaceful serene. It’s like a park with nobody in it but horses that don’t talk back,” she said.
Benson Farm in Paris, Kentucky is almost a thousand miles from the Superdome.
“You see the rolling hills this way and over here? It’s so pretty,” she said surveying the 600 acres around her. It’s where they raise their horses for GMB Racing.
The upcoming Saints playoff game will be her first without Tom Benson by her side.
“Sometimes I walk through the barns to let them know I’m here.”
The Bensons bought the farm in 2016. In their stately home on the property there are tributes to Tom Benson everywhere.
“That was done by Phyllis Unger, a local artist in New Orleans,” she said. “I wanted something special on that fireplace so she did that for me.”
When she thinks about this season, she thinks about her husband.
“I think about it everyday. He would have wanted us to be in the playoffs so badly. That’s all he talked about. I think he would be really happy right now. He is happy right now.”
She believes he's the guardian angel over the Saints.
“He is watching and I think he’s hoping we play in Atlanta but we don’t know until we win those next few games. We are just hoping for the best for him.”
When Tom Benson died last March, the people of New Orleans and beyond showed their love and respect for him, and the team that had brought the city so much joy.
“When I came out of the church and I saw all those people, I was like ‘oh my goodness!’ They were by Jackson Square and when I looked down that street we were going down. He would have loved that.”
She took the helm of her husband’s business empire and sports franchises.
“He’d get so disappointed when we’d lose and I’d try to explain to him that it’s OK. You can’t win every game.”
This season would be special. From the patches the players wear on their jerseys to honor Mr. B., to their passion for making him proud on the field.
“They are my children, all of them. The Saints and the Pelicans. They are my children and they respond very well to that.”
She goes to every Saints home and away game and gives the players notes of encouragement.
“I let the coach talk to them after the game. Sometimes I tell them how I appreciate everything they’re doing.”
She goes outside the locker room after games.
“The locker room can get crazy. They so happy when they wining and I’m so happy for them. I stand on the side.”
She’s watched them do “Choppa Style”.
“That is so funny. The first time I saw it, it’s like, what are they doing? It makes me feel good they have such a good time at work. It’s nice when people love their job and they can be that excited and that happy. They are like a bunch of children they really are.”
The players' enthusiasm gets them through some tough times. When the team clinched the division title on December 9 against Tampa, Sean Payton gave her the game ball. Drew Brees did even more.
“Right after that, Drew said this was the ball I actually threw. I was so touched. I asked him if he would sign it and he did.”
The players were there for her when she needed them most. They want to give one last gift to Tom Benson, another Super Bowl victory.
“That’s why they’re playing so hard,” she said.