In 1983, I fell into a tumultuous relationship with the New Orleans Saints. Since then, they’ve made me laugh and they’ve made me cry. At least it hasn’t been boring!
An Homage to the New Orleans Saints
I am going to share with you a very deep, dark secret about myself. I have a certain condition. Some call it a weakness and others call it a personal shortcoming. Some might say it could be a genetic issue, while still others insist it is a character flaw of my own doing. Whatever the case may be, I will now admit it, openly and freely. I am a ……..a New Orleans Saints fan.
DANG, it felt good to get that out in the open!
50th Anniversary Who Dat?!
This being the 50th anniversary of the Saints franchise, I thought I would share a little background on these seldom-recognized teams, coaches, and players.
We got our franchise in 1967, and although we had already decided to be called The Saints, in honor of the spiritual, “When the Saints Come Marching In”, the announcement came on All-Saints Day that year. Coincidence or just good PR, it made us official.
We had no stadium of our own in those days, so we played our home games down the road at Tulane University. In our inaugural game, running back John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for the very first Saints touchdown. Outstanding!! We lost that game to the Rams, 27-13. It was just that way when you were a Saints fan. You took the bad with the awful and just kept cheering. I still do it to this day, even though the “bad” has gotten a lot better.
The Huge and Tricky Superdome
We played our home games at Tulane all the way through the 1974 season. That’s when we moved into the legendary Superdome. At the time, it was the largest domed stadium anywhere. You could fit several Astrodomes inside it, just to give you an idea of the scale. But they were still realistic when they were putting in the seats; unlike other stadiums where the seats are all the same color, the seats in the Superdome were a variety of colors. The reason? When the TV cameras panned across the stadium, it made it look like all the seats were occupied, when in fact, that was seldom the case back then. Nice bit of trickery, huh?
Here’s Your Bag
Now, when I say I am a Saints fan, I don’t mean I am one of those bandwagoners who started following them post-Katrina, or since they finally won the Super Bowl. I started my fanaticism back in the dim, dark, bleak days of the franchise. Back when Kenny Stabler was our quarterback and our roster included names like Stan Brock, Brad Edelman, Rickey Jackson, Dave Waymer, and Hokie Gajan. This was back in the days of the New Orleans “Aints”, when fans would pay good money for tickets to the game, but enjoyed it in the anonymity of a paper bag worn over their heads. Those were the days. NOT!
Stuff’s Gettin’ Better
It’s fair to say that my beloved team has progressed over the years. Our coaches got better. Bum Phillips took over the helm after working his magic with the Houston Oilers, but he eventually gave up and turned the reins over to his son, Wade, and left town.
Of course, Coach Jim Mora’s legendary press conference meltdown will be remembered long after he has become dust. However, he did help us gain a degree of respect during his tenure. Mike Ditka “had a cup of coffee” in the Big Easy. Unfortunately, he was best remembered, not for implementing any great strategies, but for trading away ALL of our draft picks in the 1999 season so that we could pick up Ricky Williams. Ricky, it turned out, would rather “pass the dutchie” than pass the freakin’ football and was soon history. Jim Haslett was up next and he really did a good job of building a team. Sadly, he left with a 46-52 record.
In 2006, Sean Payton came on board and he has been “The Man” ever since, winning us division titles and even a Super Bowl.
The Damaged Kid
Sean brought in quarterback Drew Brees amid some serious scepticism. Drew had injured his throwing shoulder while in San Diego and had undergone surgery to correct the damage, so he was pretty much written off by a lot of teams. Coach Payton had a different feeling about this kid and signed him up. Now guess who holds the record for most 5,000 yard passing seasons, most consecutive 4,000 yard passing seasons, highest pass completion percentage in a season, and most completions in a single season. Yeah, that “damaged” kid.
Pride and Resiliency
Now I’m not going to try and convince you that the Saints have the potential to be a “dynasty’, like the Patriots or the Steelers, but don’t, and I mean don’t, ever write them off. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and turned the Superdome into a heavily damaged shelter that was originally thought unsalvageable. We played our 2005 season home games in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas and LSU’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Sad times. September 25, 2006, the Saints finally came home to the Dome which had been rebuilt, repaired, refurbished, and was rededicated with a blocked opening kickoff, returned for a touchdown, courtesy of Steve Gleason. We went on to embarrass our arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons 23-3 in that game. Ya gotta love it!!
Come to the Dark Side – We Have Bags
I joined the ranks of Saints fans back in 1983 when I moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana and developed an interest in football. I have lived and died with them every season since. In some of my happiest times, they have given me a reason to laugh long and hard, and in some of my darkest hours they taught me to hang on because things do get better. I will bleed black and gold until the day I head to that stadium in the sky, and I wear my colors proudly. It is easy to support a team when they consistently win, but if you want to develop some character, put on those Saints colors, slip that bag over your head and follow me!