Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dare We Hope?

A few weeks ago, I was "tagged" by another blogger, meaning that Your Humble Correspondent was supposed to reveal five things that readers and/or other bloggers might not know about me. That presumes, of course, that you actually care about such stuff. If not, I certainly understand, and you're free to move on to more interesting material. However, if such matters actually interest you, here is a factoid that has not been previously revealed about yours truly. Please note that I am limiting this "disclosure" to only one item, sensing that a more lengthy discourse would drive away all readers once and for all. Okay, here goes:

I am a New Orleans Saints fan.

And not some Who-Dat-come lately that jumped on the bandwagon when Drew Brees and Reggie Bush blew into what's left of the Big Easy. Au contraire. I remember when the expansion Saints played at Tulane Stadium. When Billy Kilmer was the quarterback. When Archie Manning was supposed to be the answer at quarterback. And Bobby Hebert. And Steve Walsh. And Jim Everett. And Aaron Brooks.

I also remember when Tom Dempsey set the NFL record for the longest field goal (63 yards). He was sent onto the field because our then resident genius, er, head coach, though his team was in Detroit territory, making it "only" a 53 yard attempt. In reality, the Saints were on their side of the 50, setting up Dempsey for a 63-yard effort. That sort of buffoonery was common with the Saints; Dempsey's booming kick was one of the few times that the players overcame mistakes by coaches, management, or themselves.

But we persisted. I remember the euphoria over Archie Manning's first game as a rookie, when he led the Saints to victory over the Los Angeles Rams (yes, children, the Rams used to play in L.A.). And the reality that followed as the Saints perpetually inept front office refused to surround Archie with the talent required to win in the NFL. His 8-8 MVP season was followed by the infamous 1980 "Aints" the team that went 1-15, caused the crazies in the Dome to wear bags over their heads, and drove another nail through our collective hearts. Afterall, this is a team with exactly one playoff win in its 40-year history, and seven--count 'em, seven winning seasons--over that same span.

But all that frustration has been cast aside, at least for now. One year after going 3-13 (and playing all their games on the road, due to damage to the Superdome from Hurricane Katrina), the Saints are one game away from the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. After winning the NFC South (and a first-round bye in the playoffs), the Saints held off the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, 27-24, advancing to the conference championship for the first time in their history. The victory was largely secured by tailback Deuce McAllister, the veteran All-Pro who was largely overshadowed by the recent arrival of quarterback Drew Brees rookie sensation Reggie Bush, and new head coach Sean Payton. But when the Saints needed critical yards against Philly, they gave it to McAllister, and Deuce delivered.

To get to the Super Bowl, the Saints must beat the Bears in Chicago next weekend. Being a long-suffering Saints fan, my gut tells me that this year's team--as good as they are--will find a way to fold. But if there's such a thing as a team of destiny, then this year's version of the Saints must be it, and there may be a little magic left in the Gold and Black.

We can only hope.


Glenmore said...

Perhaps the curse that doomed the Saints for all these years was washed away in the Katrina flood waters?

And did you notice that Bush seems to have taught his teammates the old USC 'Bush Push'? (Got away with it this time too!)

Wanderlust said...

spook, I was born and raised in Chalmette. The Dempsey kick was the stuff of legend, even if my coming of age (and whatever was left of my innocence) was permanently marred by the 3-13 "Aints" under Hank Stram.

As a kid, I thought Pistol Pete (Maravich) could do no wrong, and I was pissed that the Jazz moved to "Uh-taw".

But I also remember Saints and Jazz games that were so sparsely attended, even the colored stadium seating couldn't make up for a 70,000 seat arena that was used by only a few hundred fans.