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