Saints editorial: We’re Saints fans, after all
By Tony Twillie
Saints fans are optimistic about this season. But there have been enough bad times in our history to make us cautious. Why do we not simply embrace success?
We’re Saints fans, after all.
In 2000, Jim Haslett took a hapless, floundering Saints organization and overhauled it. The Ditka era ended miserably, with a 3-13 season in 1999, the year Ditka inexplicably gave up the entire draft for Ricky Williams. We’ve always felt worse for Ricky than we did for Ditka. There was no way he could ever live up to that.
Haslett’s 2000 team opened 1-3 before going on a six-game winning streak, winning nine of the last 12 games. We went from a point differential of -174 (worst in Saints history) to +49 in one season. Beyond that, they won their first playoff game in team history. That was the year we heard the glorious sounds of Jim Henderson screaming “Hakim dropped the ball… There is a god after all!” as Az-Zahir Hakim of the St. Louis Rams muffed a punt late in the game, clinching the victory for the Saints.
We lost the divisional round game to Minnesota, but no matter. We’d won our first playoff game, and we were happy. We’re Saints fans after all. We know with the good comes the bad, with the happy comes the sad. We enjoy the good in the best ways we know how. We do it big, we celebrate life. We enjoy the company of others and give the best of ourselves. And when it’s back to where it had been, we recall the good days and celebrate the memories.
We’d done this for decades. Our Saints weren’t very good very often. Sure, we had some players in Manning and Abramowicz. We had Hank Stram for a couple of seasons and Bum Phillips. We got a new home, going from Tulane Stadium to the Superdome. These were things to make you get excited; window dressing mostly. But the poor seasons came and went more often.
Jim Mora came to town and brought the Dome Patrol together. Along with the Cajun Cannon, we had some decent teams. We played in a division with the Rams and the 49ers though. As good as we were, it was tough to get over the hurdle of that greatness in those teams. But we enjoyed. We appreciated some wins, some playoff appearances. We’re Saints fans, after all. All the .500 seasons and better, a couple of playoff games, these were heady days for us.
That brings us to Haslett. Nice man. We appreciated that win. When they fell back to earth the following season with a 7-9 season, we didn’t get mad. Business as usual. We had a winning year and then two .500 seasons following that, so we were happy. We weren’t the laughing stock of the league anymore, and that was nice.
Katrina hit, and football didn’t matter. We held each other and cried on each other’s shoulders. Our team had a nomadic season, not playing a single game in the city. We lamented losses much larger than the Saints. We lost our possessions, but we didn’t lose our spirit. We’re Saints fans, after all. And we got our Saints back.
Sean Payton and Drew Brees blew in on the tailwinds of Katrina. In just that first year, the team went not just TO the playoffs, not just past the wild card round, but into the NFC Championship. It was so completely surreal. A team that didn’t even have a place to play months earlier was playing for the conference championship. That team rode on the spirit of our rebirth and used our collective heart to reach those goals. We’re Saints fans, after all. We have that mojo.
When the next season rolled around, we weren’t as good. And that was okay. The Saints had taken us to places we’d never been. They helped bring our community back and we loved them for it. If they’d never won big again, we’d have still loved that team. We always love our team, win or lose.
But win big they did. The city that knows how to celebrate anything in life (and in death to be honest) partied HUGE when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
And now we knew success. The Saints went back to the playoffs the following year, and the next! We were zapped with penalties from the league in 2012 but returned to the playoffs in 2013. A Super Bowl win and three playoff appearances in five years. We rejoiced in the good days. We’re Saints fans, after all. Rejoicing comes with the territory.
Three years of mediocrity slowed our roll. Then just as we thought it may be time to make some changes – put some seafood instead of chicken and andouille in the gumbo – the Saints came back to life last season.
That life continues this season, with a team hungry; ready for the playoffs. We will celebrate whatever the team gives us. Hopefully they will right the wrongs from last season and make it back to the big time.
But in the minds of many Saints fans, we are cautiously optimistic. Sometimes, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’ve seen good and bad. We will absolutely enjoy the wins, and hope beyond hope they come. We have the gris-gris and the beads. We’ll light candles and have the fava beans. We’ll petition the spirit of Tom Benson.
But if they don’t, we’ll be OK. We’ve survived worse than a Saints loss. We’ll talk about it, lament a bit. And then we’ll celebrate what we DID accomplish.
We’re Saints fans, after all.