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AMERICA'S GAME -- FOR YOUR HALF TIME ENTERTAINMENT

I was born in New Orleans in 1965, and my beloved Saints were born on Willow Street two years later.   I have been listening to, watching (on TV), and going to games since I was a toddler.  I can still remember my father and his old, brown, AM/ FM, 9 volt battery operated radio listening to games on Sunday afternoons in New Orleans as he washed his car.  I can still remember listening to Tom Dempsey’s NFL Record 63 yard field goal over the Lions in 1970.  It was November 8, 1970.  I was 5 years old at the time, and I remember it like it was yesterday.  I heard the call on my dad’s radio.  I still remember the announcer saying “It’s good!  It’s good!  The Saints have won!  The Saints have won!  The stadium is wild!  Dempsey is being mobbed!  The Saints have won!”  A short time later my big brother Will (who was 12 at the time) came home from the game; he was there.  He told how he almost left Tulane Stadium; how his buddy wanted to leave early, but he talked him into staying, saying he thought Dempsey might come on and kick a “90 yard field goal.” 

I remember it all – the good times and the bad.  I remember 1973 as the year that solidified my passion for sport in general and football in particular.  The Great Secretariat won the Triple Crown that year, astounding the world in the Belmont with a 31 length triumph.  Tulane finished 9 and 2 and went to the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston.  And I was there when the Saints shut out the Bills, in their first shut out ever (the Final Score was 13-0 Saints fans), in 1973 at Tulane Stadium.  They held O.J. Simpson to only 79 yards rushing in the same season where he would astound the world and shatter the glass ceiling of an astonishing 2000 yards rushing.  I remember the tiny 5’5” Howard Stevens and his amazing punt returns in the same game.  And just a few weeks later, on December 1st in that same year and in that same venue, before a the biggest crowd ever to see a football game in the south, Tulane shut out LSU 14-0, for their first win over their arch rivals in a quarter century.  I remember 1976 and 1977, when Tampa Bay and Seattle first came into the league.  I remember that awful game in 1977 when we became the first team to distinguish themselves by losing to Tampa after they were ZERO and 26; this after Archie Manning said that losing to Tampa Bay would be a disgrace (it had to be, we lost 33-14 in one of our many low points).   I remember 1980 and the horrid 1-15 season.  I remember Buddy Diliberto introducing the paper bag heads, and we all laughed but some of us cried.  You see, when you grow up in New Orleans, and you follow the Saints for your whole life and theirs, even though you never played a down, you feel like you are part of the team.  And maybe just maybe, in some ways you really are.  Even studies now show that the twelfth man makes a difference – that the home field advantage is real and tangible.  I am from New Orleans; I was born here for a reason, and so were the formerly – as Buddy D. once put it – the formerly “loosingest franchise in the history of the world,” our beloved Saints.  

I remember when John Mecom Jr. sold the team and everybody (and I do mean everybody) breathed a collective sigh of relief.  I remember the Jim Finks and Jim Mora years as well.  I joined the Army in December of 1986 and went to Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) in the fall of 1987.  As a result, I missed much of the Saints great 1987 season.  But my dad would mail me the Sports section of the Times Picayune, every Monday Morning following the games, and I would read it in my horrid open bay barracks, along with 55 other “Joes.”  Unfortunately, that magical 1987 season would end with us being crushed by the Vikings at home in our first ever playoff game.  I remember the opening day of 1990, Monday night game versus the 49ers when they were the defending Kings of Football.  The Saints ate Joe Montana’s lunch for 3 and ½ quarters and we let them off the hook 13-12, even though we had dominated the game in almost every way.  And who could forget the Dome patrol and the incredible Defense that led the NFL in scoring Defense 2 years in a row (91 and 92). 

I don’t think anyone of us wants to spend too much time remembering the 2005 season, but we don’t want to forget it entirely either.  We almost lost both the team and the city, as the two are so inexplicably intertwined, as if by Divine plan.  Post Katrina New Orleans was a dark and scary time.  The region needed something to cheer about if she would emotionally survive the Devastation of Katrina, and that gift was provided in the form of the magical, magical 2006 Saints.

Of all the memories I have of New Orleans Sport, I suppose the magical 2006 Saints Season will always stand out.  I was serving in Fort Richardson, Alaska when Steve Gleeson blocked Koenon’s punt and I went totally and completely WILD in my buddy’s living room.  I almost jumped out of my skin, they thought I was crazy.  I left work early that day just to see the game.  Monday “Night” football in Alaska kicks off at about 4:30 p.m. in Alaska.  And I remember Reggie Bush’s 88 yard catch and run against the Bears in the NFC title game, and I went berserk again – so much so that my big German Shepherd (Nando) jumped up and went Berserk with me, and just for a minute, it looked like a miracle was going to happen, and we would overcome the Bears and go to the big dance for the first time ever.   And I would be remiss if I did not mention the great Deuce McAllister plowing through the Eagles, refusing to be denied, one week prior to get us farther and higher than any Saints team had ever been.    

So here we are in 2010.  As of this writing the Saints are needing just one more win to go to their first ever Super Bowl.  I have served all over the world, and have watched and listened to Saints games for a generation.  I have watched and listened from places like Iraq, Germany, Alaska and numerous other places that are definitely NOT New Orleans.  I am glad to be living here at home now, for this season.  It has long been my dream to watch the Saints play for the NFC title, AT HOME, in the Dome.  That dream will be realized this Sunday.  I am certain that there will be no game like it (and no atmosphere like it) in the history of the team, and I believe they will hoist the George Halas Trophy when the final second ticks away.  And whether I watch the game on TV, or per chance by some miracle, find myself in the Dome for the game – all of New Orleans will rejoice as though they are physically right there with them, rooting for their team, the 2009 New Orleans Saints.  One more thing, the NFC title game will not be the Saints last game, nor will it be their last goal, as the big prize awaits in Miami.  Will we hoist the Lombardi Trophy as well?  We’ll soon know and I believe we will, but until then, we will enjoy every second of the ride.  God bless our Saints and our city.  Go New Orleans!!!

Ted Baccich

New Orleans Native and Longsuffering Saints Fan (since birth), POSTED 19 January 2010


MEET THE NEW AMERICA'S TEAM


Well football fans of America, the New Orleans Saints have officially erased their names off that tiny list of teams to have NEVER played in a Superbowl.  And if you are a Saints fan like me, you are THANKING GOD FOR IT.  The late New Orleans Sportscaster Buddy Diliberto promised to wear a dress if the Saints ever made it to the Superbowl; this because the Saints had a history of -- as Buddy once said -- being the "loosingest franchise in the history of the world."  The original post (above) was first written just after the Saints suffered their first loss of the season, dropping their record to 13-1.  It turned out to be more prophetic than I thought.  As the post pointed out, one of the few proud moments in franchise history was Tom Dempsey's NFL record making 63 yard field goal to beat the Lions way back in 1970.  It is a record that, although once tied, has never been broken.

Truth is stranger than fiction, and it is highly ironic that another field goal will go down in Saints' history right along that record breaking 63 yarder by Dempsey.  I am speaking, of course, about Garrett Hartley's kick that put the Saints in the Superbowl (click on link to watch).  It was a thing of beauty, almost perfectly executed, and I have watched it again, and again, and again.  I can't stop watching it.  Garrett Hartley talked about a premonition he had the night before the game,
“I called my dad (in Texas) at 2:15 in the morning,” Hartley said. “And I told him I had a feeling I was going to hit the game-winner from 42 yards on the right hash mark. I think I was 2 yards off." Hartley described the situation as "surreal" and said it was like "never never land" that he didn't believe in such things, etc.  But apparently such things were true in this case.  Could God have been speaking to Garrett Hartely?  Does God care about football?  Doesn't God have more important things to worry about than football games?  Conservative Christian America says that God cares about EVERYTHING, and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that 7 million highly zealous Saints fans, in a formerly very depressed region, can escape His attention?

Conservative Christian America salutes the New Orleans Saints and their leader Drew Brees, who is also a Christian.  His
Christian testimony is not to be missed and can be heard by clicking here.  Conservative Christian America is not crazy about all the "Breesus" nonsense and would like to see the Saints' success kept in proper perspective.  But this blogger finds it almost impossible not to pull for his hometown team when they play like the Champions they are.  Miami, Payton Manning (New Orleans native), the Colts and Superbowl XLIV awaits.  GO SAINTS!      

Ted Baccich

Posted, 26 January 2010



MIRACLE ON THE GRIDIRON


If you are anywhere near my age, you will no doubt remember the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team who overcame impossible odds to defeat the vaunted and feared Soviet Union in Lake Placid.  The Soviets were, for all practical purposes, a professional hockey team.  Some of them had played together for several years.  They had played against and defeated NHL teams.  And now a bunch of college kids with a dream would go against the mighty Soviets in a game that was more than just a game.  Broadcaster Al Michaels said a word came to him during the game's closing moments, "miracle," and thus we now have the famous call "Do you believe in Miracles?! Yes!!"

It was one of those extremely rare moments in sport where the world stood back and took notice.  Something spectacular had happened against almost impossible odds.  We defeated the mighty Soviet Union, went on to win the Gold Medal, and I'll bet you can remember where you were when it was happening.  A group of zealous college kids had accomplished a feat that was destined to be remembered as perhaps the single greatest sporting achievement of the 20th Century.  What made it great?  Were they playing for money?  No, not directly; they were college kids.  Were they playing for power?  No, not exactly.  They were playing a game that came to symbolize the struggle between world powers and they were playing for ideals that were greater than just a hockey game.  They played for a nation.  They played for the godly kind of pride that is epitomized in the spirit of American freedom.  And I believe it is fair to say they had a little help from the Man Upstairs.  

In a similar way, the New Orleans Saints accomplished a feat that I believe will be long remembered as one of the greatest NFL victories.  Yes, they are professionals, and many of them were indeed playing for money -- lots of it too.  But all 32 NFL teams play for money and only one wins a Championship.  Some of the highest paid "super star" players are on really mediocre teams.  Terrell Owens comes to mind. Money cannot buy heart.  

New Orleans has long been a city of defeat, and Hurricane Katrina symbolized that defeat and humiliation as well as any other catastrophe the city had ever endured.  The city was nearly annihilated and the football team very nearly packed its bags and DEPARTED.  I was stationed in Alaska when it happened and all I could do was watch helplessly and think to myself, "I don't want my city destroyed." 

Richard M. Nixon once described a depression as "anytime people lose confidence in the future."  It is as good of a definition as any and quite possibly the most accurate (even though it uses virtually no economic analysis).  What the Saints did for the city was about more than football.  It was about giving the people something to cheer about, and they needed it very badly.  It was about restoring hope to a formerly hopeless region.  It was about demonstrating that nothing is impossible.  If the New Orleans Saints, the formerly "losingest franchise in the history of the world," can win on the biggest stage of sport, then maybe there is hope for all of us, even against the most daunting of odds.  If college kids can defeat the mighty Soviet Empire's best professionals, then anything is possible.  If a city of defeat can become a city of victory, then maybe it can happen on a personal level too.  The city of mold has become the city of black and gold, and maybe there is just a little bit of gold in all of us.
   

God bless America. God bless New Orleans, and God bless you.

Ted Baccich

Posted, 16 February 2010
      

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