The New Orleans Saints, struggling to the extreme as of late, are reminiscent to the old days. As the older fans have lived through this before, these emerging problems are fresh to the newer generation.
First, I want to say I am not happy with the way the New Orleans Saints are playing at 4-7. I will categorize myself as an older Saints fan being born in the early 70’s. I got to see a few years of Archie Manning scrambling around trying to evade defenders — he ran for his life on most days.
I was a kid at the time collecting football cards, learning the game quickly from my father and other relatives. We actually had a huge family of cousins and relatives that played an annual Thanksgiving game in this open lot. They let me play, even knowing I was under 10-years old. I could run pretty fast, so I could at least rush the quarterback after five Mississippi’s, if I remember right.
Regardless, I watched the New Orleans Saints play game after game on Sundays. I got the message real quick, that for whatever reason, the Saints couldn’t win much. It was frustrating as I would watch other fans in other cities celebrate winning football. I do remember head coach Dick Nolan getting replaced by a guy named Bum Phillips. I knew of him because I used to follow the Houston Oilers really close. Yes, I did say the Houston Oilers not the Houston Texans. Bum came in with a cowboy hat and a toothpick that gave hope to many.
I’ll never forget as long as I live the almost winning season in 1983. The Saints were two seconds away from their first playoff spot and Los Angeles Rams kicker Mike Lansford made a 42-yard-field goal that literally sent my relatives in tears and frustration. My favorite cousin, Darren, agonized so much after that loss, I didn’t see him for awhile. My parents just told me he needed some time to get over it. This is just a snippet of what it was like being a Saints fan in that era.
Yes, I think it’s fair to admit that I’m envious and jealous of the fans that came on board after Hurricane Katrina. I really don’t blame them though. I get it — the New Orleans Saints became America’s team after our great city almost sunk by the perfect storm. The Saints recruited Sean Payton and Drew Brees, then eventually became Super Bowl winners.
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There were people from all over the world that would become Saints fans because of our story. The team was without question a part of the rebirth of New Orleans. I don’t think that can be overstated enough. If the Saints moved, who knows what would have happened, but they didn’t. Some of the older generation like my grandma never did see it happen. She would always tell me “those bloody Saints are gonna kill me I swear.”
The Saints fans that were older than me saw even more suffering than I did. I actually thought the golden years were in the late 1980’s when they did finally get into the playoffs at the time. My friends and I put up a tent in Metairie, LA to save our spot so we could get playoff tickets in 1987. We got our butts whipped by the Minnesota Vikings, but it was one of the happiest weeks I would ever have in my ten years of following them. Head coach Jim Mora was beloved by the city and the “Dome Patrol”, the nickname given to arguably the greatest group of linebackers in NFL history, was feared by the entire league — the franchise was legitimate. We were finally proud to be Saints fans.
So let’s fast forward to current day. Just like in the late 80’s, the golden era that all of us have been accustomed to, may be coming to an end. I know the season is not over just yet. It wouldn’t take that much to make a miracle run considering the ease of our schedule. The more likely of scenarios, though, would be the Saints having another losing season. The scary part is that they haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1998-99. They actually had six in a row from 1994-1999.
It’s ironic because the New Orleans Saints started the year at 5-0 in 1993 to end at 8-8. In Week 16, the end of a disappointing season got even worse when Wade Wilson was injured on Monday Night Football and the fans cheered to Jim Mora’s dismay. That was the beginning of the end when Mora said “I mean this with all sincerity; I have been coaching for 34 years and tonight I saw one of the rudest, disgusting, sick demonstrations of my career.” Mora would never have another winning season here.
The simple question is will history repeat itself? Will Sean Payton, the beloved savior and Super Bowl coach be disdained by the fans like other coaches from the past? I suppose it’s not a matter of how this ends, but rather when. There have been very few coaches and franchise quarterbacks that have gone out on their own terms.
The new Saints fan probably cannot fathom anyone else in charge other than Payton and Brees. The old Saints fan knows that the franchise was started in 1967 way before Payton and Brees would even step foot on any football field. We know as older Saints fans that we will be here forever, win or lose. We wear our gear year round and will be here long-term. Not to pick on the new fans, because again it’s not their fault. They were born into a winner’s circle.
If that’s all you know, how can you relate to the aging fan that has the battle scars to show from earlier losing seasons. Hopefully, we can all grow together through this transition time, because growth builds character. And one day, these new Saints fans will become old Saints fans, and understand what it’s like to overcome years of adversity.