For every New Orleans Saints game her family has attended this year, Jennifer Harper has brought along her late son Bobby’s No. 9 Saints jersey and draped it over what was his seat inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
That’s because Bobby, who would have turned 31 this week, died in an auto accident in January. Bringing the jersey along was the family’s way of keeping Bobby with them.
The tradition started with last season's NFC Championship Game, when Bobby's brother Michael and his girlfriend took the jersey to the game, which was played in New Orleans soon after Bobby’s death. It has continued this season, NOLA.com reported.
“That jersey makes you feel like he’s still there in the Dome with you every Sunday,” Michael told the news outlet. Sometimes a family member or fellow fan will dance around with Bobby’s jersey during the playing of “Stand Up and Get Crunk,” which is played at Saints games, the report said.
“That jersey makes you feel like he’s still there in the Dome with you every Sunday.”
But after the Saints lost to the San Francisco 49ers this past Sunday, something unfortunate happened: Jennifer noticed the jersey was missing.
Jennifer told NOLA.com she remembers packing up the jersey when the family got ready to leave the stadium – but when they got to the parking lot she realized it was gone.
“My gosh, where’s Bobby’s jersey?” Jennifer recalled thinking.
On Monday, which would have been Bobby’s birthday, Michael’s girlfriend, Chelsea Hale, posted an appeal on Facebook – hoping to reach someone who may have found the jersey and can return it to the family.
“It is our way of coping with his absence,” Hale writes in the post.
She adds later: “I just wanted to reach out and ask for shares so that maybe just MAYBE someone see’s this post and can get the jersey returned to his family. I understand it is a material item and can be replaced but for them it has significant value/meaning ... they hold it tight at games and it’s our way of feeling close to him.”
The Saints’ next home game will be Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Then the team finishes the regular season with road games against Tennessee and Carolina.
Afterward, there’s a good possibility the 10-3 Saints will play at home in the playoffs.
Whether for the Colts game or a playoff game, the family hopes to be waving Bobby’s jersey again soon.