Sunday, February 7, 2010

What a Saints Super Bowl win means to me ("I Can't Explain")

Grandmaster Wang can't be the only Saints blogger getting in on all The Who love here. Oh sure, he gets more attention and comments because he's "got a nicer looking web page," "writes pieces in a timely manner," and "is consistently hilarious." But I digress...

Now that I've turned my Bennett Brauer button off, let's get on with this piece.

What would a win do for me, your humble narrator? Well, there's the obvious fulfillment and validation for following and supporting a team, particularly special because it's your hometown team and the first team you ever really followed. I suppose the sheer euphoria would last me all the way through next season. Lord knows if there's a lock-out, a potential Saints Super Bowl win would have to sustain me for that painful period when there's no NFL to be had. And at the same time, if the Saints won the Super Bowl, the team could go 0-16 the following year and I wouldn't ... well, I can't say I wouldn't care, but it wouldn't be the soul crushing bout of depression it could have been otherwise.

I know for a fact what I won't be doing and that's casting myself as some sort of bullshit "Ghost Whisperer" for sports fans whose teams haven't won a championship in forever. (I'm looking at you, Bill Simmons.)

And while Saints fans have long understood that the whole "this team is rebuilding the city" story line is mostly bollocks, the Saints are providing enough of a positive vibe for people around town and for fans to go through the daily grind. I may not live in the GNO anymore, but I understand what a positive vibe means for the city. A Super Bowl win would take that positive vibe to new, uncharted heights. And while I obviously have my disagreements and dislikes about the city and what goes on in it, I want this win for the people.

You've read or likely heard before that my father was one of the first people in line to buy season tickets when the franchise came to town in 1967. He stopped going to games after Archie left because he believed the franchise didn't give two shits. Being fan and going to games hurt too damn much, so he cancelled his season tickets. Yeah, he's been to some games here and there--he's even gone on the road to Seattle, Kansas City and Washington D.C. to watch the team over the last few years--but I don't think he would ever entertain the thought of getting season tickets again. I want a Saints win for him.

My older brother -- you heard him in the NFC Championship Game postgame radio show. You could listen to his voice again and understand what this Super Bowl berth means. And at the same time you'd know what a Super Bowl victory would mean. I want the Saints to win for him.

Many fans have had personal tragedy tied in with this team. People have lost family members over the years and have poured themselves into their Saints fandom as some sort of coping mechanism. Maybe it's Katrina-related, maybe it isn't; point is, they've turned to the Saints. My friend Ralph has really leaned on the Saints this year after losing his dad. For him, and all the others like him, I want the Saints to win.

I've done the radio show with Ralph for a few years now, and Dave over at Canal Street Chronicles joined us in the past year and has really helped bring the show to where it should be. Dave's admittedly only been a Saints fan for 10 years, but you don't get involved in a Saints blog--probably the best, most well-run sports blog for the team--if you don't give a damn and aren't passionate about them. Same thing for Grandmaster Wang. And what of the callers to said radio show? You don't just call an internet radio show hosted by three schmucks if you're from El Paso, Lafayette, Birmingham, Charlotte or Las Vegas -- not unless you have passion for the team. I've never met any of these people face to face and with the exception of maybe Dave and Wang I likely will not have an opportunity to met them. And I want the Saints to win for them as well.

It almost goes without saying that I want the Saints to win for themselves. Tom Benson deserves to have this kind of chapter written into his legacy with the fans. I want this so much for Drew Brees and Sean Payton that it hurts. If the Saints were ever smart enough to have a Ring of Honor in the Dome, you'd have to put those two guys in it with a Super Bowl win. Hell, bronze statues would be in order. Jeremy Shockey deserves to have a new chapter in his career where he's not just some drunken, womanizing hooligan. The word "champion" should have to go in front of all that. Darren Sharper may not have too many years left in his career. Hell, I could even see him retiring after this year. But I want him to have another ring. Anthony Hargrove has been through a personal hell and back. Mark Brunell has been around the league almost as long as Brett Favre. Thomas "Puntmaster Flex" Morstead deserves a ring, if only to show that drafting a punter with your fourth and final pick in a draft can be worthwhile. Marques Colston was nearly Mr. Irrelevant in the draft, Pierre Thomas wasn't even drafted, and Robert Meachem was a first round pick who vanished for his rookie season. Reggie Bush, gunning for that big contract and more importantly some respect around the league, deserves a win. I could run down the roster, but they all deserve rings. I want it for them.

And if the Saints do win, knowing what a win would mean for everyone I mentioned (even those I didn't mention) makes it even more special for me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Saints fandom -- A legacy of fear and diminished expectation

It’s Super Bowl Eve and I’m terrified, afraid of what could happen to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. This improbable season has perhaps made a lot of people forget that Saints fans are a worrisome bunch. We’ve spent the overwhelming majority of the last four decades waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nine winning seasons in 40-plus years will do that to a fanbase.

My father was one of the first people to get season tickets heading into the ’67 inaugural season at Tulane Stadium. He brought my older brother to games at the Superdome beginning in the late 70s. My dad got me to love the Saints from as early as I can remember.

Oddly enough, my earliest memory of the Saints’ misfortune came in a playoff game – the team’s first postseason appearance. It was against the Vikings. The Saints were blown out 44-10, and Rueben Mayes was injured and never the same player. My paternal grandparents had a Saints’ schedule poster in their kitchen and had written the scores on the poster all year long. Every time I visited, I had to look up at this poster and see that 44-10 score. I was seven-years-old, but my thirst for football vengeance was blooming.

Of course, the Saints went 12-3 that year, so surely there would be plenty more playoff trips. After all, we had one of the best defenses in the league. The only problem was we played in the same division as Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Damn it all. The Saints had a three-year run of playoff appearances at the beginning of the 90s, but that was it – playoff drought thereafter.

In 2000, in their 33rd year of existence, the Saints finally won a playoff game, only to be thwarted yet again by the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round. And again, my football vengeance was denied. But again, the thought was that we would see the playoffs again. We had the Coach of the Year in Jim Haslett and a young, mobile, athletic quarterback named Aaron Brooks.

By the bitter end of the Haslett-Brooks era (or “error” as my friends and I called it), culminating with home games played in Baton Rouge, San Antonio and New York City because of Hurricane Katrina, all I wanted was a coach that didn’t have a deer in the headlights look on his face, and a quarterback who actually show frustration over throwing an interception and not grin like a child.

I’m not rehashing the four years of the Payton-Brees era since it’s still fresh in everyone’s memory.

Instead, I’m returning to my initial sentiment: being terrified coming into the Super Bowl. I don’t know if I would say I’m always waiting for something to go wrong with the Saints. (I’d be higher strung, if it were even possible.) I tend to think of all the things that can go wrong. Perhaps I’ve read the Hagakure too much and tricked my mind into always thinking about horrible things. I blame the movie “Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.”

And while I’m in favor of the bye week between the NFC and AFC Championship Games, I’ve spent the last 13 days with a sense of looming dread. I can see the Colts running up the score early en route to a repeat of the Niners-Chargers Super Bowl; I picture Peyton Manning dispensing the ball with deadly accuracy and embarrassing the Saints’ secondary on his way to a near perfect QB rating and a second Super Bowl MVP trophy. I’ve even pictured injuries to Saints players during the game. I won’t go into greater detail for fear it might happen.

And I’ve become increasingly superstitious as the season wore on. I’ll be watching this Super Bowl not at a friend’s house or at some party with co-workers, but at the bar I’ve frequented this whole year. And I plan to wear the same clothes I’ve had on for the previous playoff games against the Cardinals and Vikings. I even shaved an awkward “playoff beard” for this magical run. I had the intention of going for a Chester A. Arthur look but instead look like the lead singer of a poor man’s Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band.

See, I think if you caught most Saints fans in their private moments when they were weren’t imbibing booze and whatever else to get them in a partying mood, they’d probably be the same way. We’re scared, but not doubters. We want confidence, but not cockiness. This team has instilled a sense of confidence in the fanbase over the course of this year. We believe we belong in the Super Bowl. We know we belong in the game.

But here is the hardest part: we believe we’re capable of winning, but do we possess confidence that the team can? I think so.

Because for all the horrible images that fill my head of the Colts throttling the Saints, or watching Peyton Manning lead a game-winning drive in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, I can also picture Drew Brees lobbing a 40-yard bomb to Devery Henderson for a touchdown, or imagine Pierre Thomas barreling over a defender for a score. I can’t control my fears of watching the team I love lose on Sunday, but I can hopefully temper them with the belief of a Saints victory.

Friday, February 5, 2010

KSK reminds me I am but a petty amateur

Big Daddy Drew at Kissing Suzy Kolber just worked the Saints into his latest fictional opus. And I am floored. (chokes back tears) They...should have...sent a poet.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Origin Story: Thomas Morstead


(Saints players are being interviewed by dozens of members of the media. A small cluster of reporters is gathered around Puntmaster Flex, Thomas Morstead.)

TOMMY: Wow, I didn't really expect to get this much attention from you guys.

STINK: Thomas, you've played an important role in the team's success, and you've done so with very little fanfare. Your kickoffs have often pinned opponents deep in their own territory or you've gotten the touchback uncontested. Your punts allow Coach Payton some safety in saying, "let's put the defense out there and see what it can do."

TOMMY: Okay, so what's your question?

STINK: I didn't really have a question. I just wanted to state something very obvious so I'd come off as knowledgeable about the game.

TOMMY: Oh. Well, does anyone have a question...?

REPORTER: Yes, Thomas! When did you really decide to become a punter?

TOMMY: (rubs 3 o'clock shadow on his chin) Hmmmm....


Date: September 1997
Place: The rolling plains of Pearland, Texas

EXT. Country House -- Day

(Three kids are tossing a football around down the driveway, about 20 yards away from a ranch-style home. One of the kids catches the pass thrown to him, turns around, and punts the ball high into the air...and it sails into a skylight on the home. The other two kids scatter at the sound of the broken glass. The kid who punted the ball stands still, hanging his head. A man, the boy's father, comes running out the house.)

DAD: You kicked the ball again, didn't you?!? DIDN'T YOU?!?

BOY: Yes, but...

(The dad wallops the boy upside his head.)

DAD: We don't kick balls in this house, unless it's for fighting purposes, you got that?!?

BOY: (meekly) Yes, sir.

DAD: My kids will THROW the goddamn ball! And they'll throw it as hard as I damn well tell them to!! You understand me, Tommy?!?

TOMMY: (nearly sobbing) But I wanna be a PUNTER, dad!!

DAD: Punter?!? I didn't raise no goddamn punter!!! Your mother! She's been coddling you too damn much!! She's entertaining these flights of pussy-dom in my house! I swear, if it were up to me, I'd have torn up that subscription to Cat Fancy when it first came in!! The fuck kinda kid reads a cat magazine anyway?!? A fucking mealy-mouthed punter, that's what!!

TOMMY: But I want to be a punter, dad...

DAD: You'll do no such thing! I'm raising a big, strong free safety! The kinda guy who'll knock mother fuckers on their sorry asses, force fumbles and score all sorts of pussy!! You wanna score all sorts of pussy, dontcha, Tommy?

TOMMY: Dad, I'm 11.

DAD: Fuck difference does THAT make?!? You're a MORSTEAD!!

TOMMY: But dad, I really admire what Ray Guy did in the NFL...

DAD: Ray Guy? You mean Ray GAY!!!! (laughs uncontrollably for 20 seconds.) See what I did there, Tommy? (elbows son in the shoulder repeatedly.) Huh? You see?!? I made fun of his last name and called him "gay" cause he's a fucking punter!!! You want people to make fun of you?!?

TOMMY: No, but I'll be really good. Really, REALLY good at punting. Why, I could prolly get a scholarship to a Big 12 school or something...

DAD: You'll do no such thing!!! You're going to SMU and majoring in theology to become a methodist minister!!! And you're gonna be grateful for it, too!!

TOMMY: But...but...can I have my ball back?

(Dad pulls something from under his shirt.)

DAD: Oh, no, I'm not having you break another skylight. You wanna kick something again? You try kicking THIS....

DAD: You'll forget all about this punting business after your foot breaks a few times....We eat dinner in twenty minutes. Gravy and biscuits.

TOMMY: Yes, sir.

(When his dad walks in the house, Tommy turns and punts the medicine ball clear across the front lawn.)

FADE TO: Present Day

TOMMY: Well, uh, my dad was a very big influence for me....


(Ed. note: I wanted to include a link for a story really digging into Morstead's background. His parents both played soccer and he played it too. Nice stuff.)