Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saints fans keep their heads up!

Mark Lorando, The Times-Picayune

So, New Orleans Saints fans. Are you still in a funk?
Yeah. Me, too.

The Saints' mind-blowing lossto the San Francisco 49ers last Saturday, preceded by LSU's stupefying BCS championship game loss to Alabama five days earlier, has been dubbed by some local diehards The Worst Sports Week Ever. A brutal blow. A death in the family. Like "Shark Week," if you're chum.
In the past, fans hid under paper bags.
Undoubtedly, today's NFC championship game between the 49ers and New York Giants -- The Team We Had in the Bag vs.The Team We Crushed Like a Bug -- will serve only to pour more pepper into the Who Dat Nation's bleeding heart.
Poor, pitiful us.
C'mon, man.
It took New Orleans 20 years to experience our first winning season, 33 years to celebrate ourfirst playoff win and 43 years to reach our first Super Bowl. Saints fans are the world's leading authorities on the agony of defeat. So we should know better than anybody:
This ain't agony.
Agony is having season tickets for a 1-15 team and trying to decide whether to wear a paper bag to the game.
Agony is a kicker named Erxleben and two quarterbacks named Billy Joe.
Agony is seeing Mike Ditka on "Saturday Night Live" and thinking: Oh my God. That's our coach. And we have a game tomorrow.
Agony is Ricky Williams in a wedding dress.
Agony is losing 20-17 to the Atlanta Falcons on a Hail Mary pass one week, 20-17 on a phantom pass interference call two weeks later, and 40-34 -- which is 20-17 times two -- on an overtime snap that sails over the punter's head to start the next season.
Agony is having the Dome Patrol to lead your defense ... and Steve Walsh to lead your offense.
Agony is trading the 11th pick inthe 1985 draft to the Houston Oilers for washed-up running back Earl Campbell, instead of using it to draft future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who is selected five picks later by ... well, you know.
Agony is Jim Finks dying of cancer. And Buddy D. dying of heart failure.
Agony is trading Archie Manning ... for Leon Gray.
Agony is Aaron Brooks passing the ball backward, and laughing about it on the sideline while you cry on your couch.
Agony is Jim Haslett starting an injured Brooks over Jake Delhomme. Who leaves New Orleans. And starts in the Super Bowl. For the Carolina Panthers.
Agony is being so bad that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise that has never won a game, wins its first game ever against you -- in your home stadium.
Agony is when, 22 years later, another franchise that has never won a game, the new Cleveland Browns, does it again. On another Hail Mary pass.
How's that for progress?
Agony is Carl Smith calling your plays.
Agony is Bum Phillips refusing to let Morten Andersen attempt a field goal against the Rams to ice your first winning season and playoff berth ... and then, minutes later, watching barefooted Mike Lansford make the field goal to beat you.
Agony is failing to re-sign Bobby Hebert. Because you have John Fourcade.
Agony is Hebert in a Falcons uniform. Throwing a touchdown pass. Against the Saints. In the Superdome. And running to the sideline with his arms spread out. Like a dirty bird.
Agony is having so little success that for 20 years, the most celebrated moment in team history is a 63-yard, game-winning field goal that brings your record to 2 wins, 5 losses and a tie.
Agony is owning the first overall pick in the draft.
Agony is a hole in your stadium, 10 feet of water in your home, and your football team in San Antonio.
Agony is not a quarterback named Brees.
A tight end named Graham.
A running back named Sproles.
A linebacker named Vilma.
A coach named Payton.
Agony is not gaining more yards in one season than any football team in the history of the sport.
Photo credit: Ted Jackson, Times-Pic
Agony is not a record of 13 and 3. In that order.
Agony is not breaking so many offensive records, you set a record for broken records.
Agony is not playing one of the most exciting playoff games in NFL history.
Even if you lose it.
Agony is not missing out on the chance to see the Saints win their second Super Bowl in three years. It's thinking that you'll die before you see them win their first. Which, let us not forget, was how we felt every January from 1967 to 2010.
Remember the 1970s, and '80s, seeing the same teams in the playoffs every year, and wondering what that must feel like?
Well, we don't have to wonder any more. This is what it feels like. A higher high when you win, and a lower low when you lose.
Last week, we played at a high level, and we lost. It hurt. But we've had worse hurts. So, starting today, let's all agree to call off the pity party. Let's lick our wounds, ice down our beer, root for Eli, give Drew a raise, count the days to the 2012 regular-season 49ers rematch in New Orleans, and set our sights squarely on Feb. 3, 2013, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, site of the Who Dat Holy Grail:
A home Super Bowl.
Stay crunk and keep climbing, Saints fans. Maybe next year we plant the flag at the summit. Maybe we slip and fall again a few excruciatingly short steps from the top. Either way, it sure beats watching from the bottom of the mountain.
Features editor Mark Lorando can be reached at or 504.826.3430. Follow on Twitter @MarkLorandoTP.

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