I have been a New Orleans Saints fan my entire life. Not the type of fan that jumps on the band wagon when they are winning and jumps off when they lose, but the type of fan that stuck with the team after Mike Ditka mortgaged a decade of draft picks for Ricky Williams. If it weren’t for hurricane Katrina, I would still have my 5-0 Cha-ching T-shirt.
Being born and raised in New Orleans, the Saints were the only team I followed in professional football. My father was so much of a fan; you would have thought he was on of the owners. Instead of church on Sunday, The Saints games were the only thing that would guarantee that my entire family would spend a day together. The Saints were part of the family. As an adult, my work week would be a good one or a bad one based on whether the Saints won their game.
I remember watching the games with all my cousins on Sunday afternoon with a plate of red beans in my lap sitting Indian-style front of the television. It was funny hearing the adult s in my family cursing and complaining about the game.
I watched my father and uncles throw beers and chicken bones at the screen in disgust every time the Saints would screw up. The game also came with full ghetto commentary from my uncle Steven and my pops. You could get a full injury report, game strategy, play by-play from my people. I also learned the entire history of the franchise by listening to my father and uncles tell the stories of how we picked who and what Tom Benson (the owner) was doing wrong with the team. The kids never asked questions, because the adults would get frustrated and kick us out of the living room.
The Dome Patrol:
After the Saints games were over, I used to go outside to play football in the street with my friends wearing my Bobby Hebert jersey, only to be laughed at and ridiculed by some of my friends who had sold out for a Joe Montana’s or Jerry Rice’s 49ers jersey. In spite of the dynasty the 49ers were at the time, I still thought the Saints were the best team. After all, they were the Saints. I thought that Dalton Hilliard was the best Running back to ever play and Rickey Jackson was better than Lawrence Taylor. I used to stick up for the Saints when they lost and make excuses for them like most people do for their cousin that’s always going back and forth to prison for various crimes. I used to say, “We need a quarterback, we have a hard schedule, the refs cheated (my favorite).”
In 1988, the Saints were playing extremely well and made it to the playoffs for the first time and played the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints were a whopping 12-3 that year and we looked unstoppable. After leading the game 10 to zero, the Vikings went on a roll and beat us 44-10. I was devastated. Vikings Wide-Receiver Anthony Carter returned a punt for a touchdown and caught a Hail-Mary touchdown pass. (The irony of a guy catching a Hail-Mary on the Saints…Whose side was Mary on?) My dad almost broke our television that day…I remember him saying a statement that would forever ring in my head,” Same ole’ Saints”….I would use that statement for the next 15 years.
In spite of all of that, when I became a teenager, I still rooted for the Saints. I remained faithful through the Ditka years, and as an adult, I have rooted through the hot/cold Haslett years, and the current Payton administration.
A lot of my friends fell off to support the Cowboys and the Patriots etc.
Then in 2005 the unthinkable happened. Hurricane Katrina tore a hole through the Superdome and flooded my city, forcing me to move to Maryland. Living between D.C. and Baltimore, people would ask me, “So are you a Skins fan or a Ravens fan?” With pride, I would show them my Saints baseball cap, screen saver from my phone, Saints engraved door keys, tie-pin, Saints logo debit card or the Drew Brees or Joe Horn (Remember him) Jersey I owned. People laughed and said, “the Saints suck!” Well being from New Orleans you know I had to respond, “No Yo’ momma sucks.”
Anyway, I knew that we would not fair well in 2005 as a result of Hurricane Katrina and Aaron Brooks still at quarterback. I still supported the Saints and counted the season as a rebuilding year. Oh man did we rebuild, something magical happened in 2006. We got a new coach (Sean Payton) a good quarterback (Drew Brees) and a guy named Bush (Reggie Bush) that wasn’t from Texas. The team looked great and was kickin’ you know what and I thought to myself, whoo-hooo!! We are finally going to win the big one. All of these years of disappointment will be worth it by winning the Super Bowl. However, it was our time, lost the NFC championship to the Bears. “Same ole Saints”
The Saints could take you high as a kite like your first love and then leave you feeling disappointed like a kid whose father did not show up to their recital. Heart attack, aneurism, and depression were some of the things I experienced over the last 30 years on a frequent basis, but for some reason I could never give up on them. I always believed that our time would come.
Does anyone remember the River City Relay in Jacksonville?
Supporting them was like the family car you never want to get rid of. Sure the car has its problems, but you have too many good memories with it and it has done too much for your family. Also, you always saw the potential in the car and what it could be, so instead of trading it in for another model, you rebuilt the engine, and threw some 20’ spinners on it, with a coat of black & gold candy paint.
I still love the Saints, like a woman loves her baby daddy, like a fat kid loves vanilla ice-cream on his chocolate cake, like Bobby Brown likes getting arrested, like Tiger Woods loves white women.
Currently, the Saints are playing great football and are 12-0 for the first time ever in life and are looking like Super Bowl contenders. They also are not falling victim to the pitfalls and bone-head plays that long time fans are accustomed to.
This season is special, but I personally don’t care about all the undefeated mess, I just want us to get home field and continuously get better as the season winds down. Now if we happen to go undefeated in the process cool, but let’s not call the season a failure if we do lose one. The goal is to be the champs.
I wrote this, because this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins, the Saints gave me heart palpitations, because I got caught up. The way they were playing against the Redskins took me back to 1988, “Same ole Saints.” As the Saints were on the doorstep of their first loss I began to complain to my wife saying, “We blew out the Dolphins, Stomp the Eagles, Ruin the Giants and embarrass the Patriots, and then lose to the Redskins?” In my mind, that is what I was used to. The Saints building you up, and then as soon as you start to believe the hype, they let you down. But just like any other family member you have, whether they are graduating from high school or flunking out they are still family and you still support them.
Here I was about to condemn my team for losing a single game that would have made them 11 and 1. (Wow unhappy with 11 and 1? We have become spoiled)
These may not be the “Same Ole Saints” in terms of their talent, attitude and potential, but these are the same ole Saints I have been rooting for my whole life, these are the same ole Saints that brought my family together, these are the same ole Saints that could have left and went to San Antonio, but stayed in a desolate city to support the fans who love them. (Thanks Tom Benson)
So no matter how the rest of the season goes, this is my team and I am sticking with them win, lose or draw. I loved the 3-13 Saints, the Dome Patrol Saints, the Cha-ching Saints, the Katrina Saints, and the lost to the Bears in the NFC Championship Saints, and the undefeated 2009 Saints. I will just make sure to take an Aspirin before each game from here on out…..Geaux Saints!!!