Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Greatest

Saints fans that preceded the creation of a Who Dat nation and those who joined the Second Line after the NFL tried a hostile takeover of said nation reveled together as the New Orleans Saints, viewed by many- particularly locals- as a cursed franchise, quickly made the transition from being the leaving the unenviable company of four NFL franchises that have never appeared in a Super Bowl to joining the elite 18 teams that have won the big game.

Locals made the transition from living vicariously through post-season play through the Manning boys to chanting their desire to see the eldest of the Super Bowl winning quarterback brothers on the ground.

That part made me happy.

Why? Because in my not so humble opinion, rooting for the Mannings in the playoffs when the Saints have finished with a usual below .500 record reminds me of how Americans root for the country of their ancestors after the USA is quickly eliminated in World Cup soccer.

Not anymore. Never again.

I was standing in a nose-bleed row in the Saints painted end zone when cornerback Tracy Porter picked off the “prototype”, the man the national sportswriters pant over and took the football to the opposite end zone.

Hopping. Screaming. I was hugging the other Saints fan in my decidedly blue section. The New Orleans Saints are going to be the World Champions.

Sure there was time on the clock for a quick-scoring, professional rallying team like the Indianapolis Colts. But for the first time, this ball of nerves for a Saints fan didn’t see the Black and Gold seizing defeat out of the jaws of victory.

No more curses. No more jinxes. The gris-gris was on someone else.

To quote the little old lady from Poltergeist, this franchise is clean.

Unlike my previous game reviews, I’m not going to break the game into detail.

The first half was a snoozer and despite the steep price I paid to sit in a steep seat, I was almost asleep. The unseasonable cold didn’t help matters.

One thing stands out from the first half. The Saints defense finally arrived when they forced the Colts to punt with 46 seconds left in the second quarter. With the time left the Saints offense got far enough down the field for kicker Garrett Hartley to put up three points to somewhat compensate for the Saints failure to score on their previous drive, when they were first and three near the Indianapolis end zone.

And then there was AMBUSH, the play Saints head coach Sean Payton planned on calling before Carrie Underwood belted out the national anthem.

Punter Tommy Morestead’s surprise on-side kick stirred me awake after The Who’s performance and marked the beginning of Super Bowl play by the struggling Saints. The Colts defense was in disarray as the Saints made five consecutive plays including running back Pierre Thomas’s 16-yard touchdown reception.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey also got some redemption after the Super Bowl snub by his former employers with a touchdown reception combined with wide receiver Lance Moore’s reception for a two-point conversion (credit a Payton challenge) that put the Black and Gold ahead for good.

Though it was into the Four Quarter, the Colts experienced fear for the first time. And second-year cornerback Tracy Porter smelled it and where Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was going, stepped in front of it and ran back for 74 yards the greatest pick-6 of his young career and in the history of the four decades old Saints franchise.

Saints fans in the stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie and a host of other corporate names erupted in unison as those hundreds of miles away on Bourbon Street and 7 miles down river in living rooms in Chalmette.

They were living in the moment even the youngest Who Days never thought they would live to see. The Saints were world champions. And quarterback Drew Brees, whom many felt was wrongfully denied the league’s MVP award after sports journalists gave it by a landslide to the Colts quarterback, received the Super Bowl MVP award ironically at the expense of Manning. Talk about poetic justice.

I remember chatting with a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not long ago about the ups and downs of his team just in the past decade. The Super Bowl win in 2003, the mid-season collapse in 2008 and how they never got back off the ground in 2009.

He shook his head and said that the worse thing that could have ever happened to the Buccaneers was winning the Super Bowl. I stood shocked for this Saints fan could not fathom in his wildest imagination how such a concept could exist.

But the Buc-a-roo held firm, saying the win set a bar that was too high and the expectations game plagued the franchise and its Super Bowl winning coach Jon Gruden- who I might add has been giddily cheering for the Saints with almost as much fervor as Bobby Hebert.

If the current Saints organization were to do their best impersonation of the Ditka-Kuharich era, the Black and Gold faithful will stand by this team, its management and its coaches for having achieved what not long ago was the seemingly impossible.

Fans might wince at bone headed trades, draft picks and backfiring triple-reverse trick plays, but what owner Tom Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Brees and the rest of the roster have given New Orleans and its people- those residing in south Louisiana and those scattered across the country by Katrina and better job opportunities cannot be taken away and will always be appreciated no matter what may come.

Who Dat?

We Dat!

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