I’ve noted before in this blog how I was a Saints fan from the outset in 1967. As a young adolescent, some of my coolest memories from those days drift across the years, recalling the Saints summer training camp in those early seasons at St. Paul’s School in Covington, Louisiana, about 8 or 10 blocks from where I lived. I
Doug Atkins, defensive end from the early days
spent hours at the school, watching the practices and then hanging out after-hours around the recreation room and the cafeteria to get autographs and to rub shoulders with legends like Jimmy Taylor, Doug Atkins, Paul Hornung, Billy Kilmer, Danny Abramowicz, and a host of other Saints celebrities from that era.
One of the St. Paul’s brothers even invited me inside the recreation room one evening where the team was watching an exhibition game between the Chicago Bears and I don’t remember who, but I sat right next to Doug Atkins, the 6’8 270 pound defensive star of the early Saints, as he cheered for his former teammates with the Bears. Gosh, here I was, watching a professional football game with professional football players! I was surprised at how they cheered and gufawed and cut up, pretty much like any other group of blue collar guys watching a ball game. I didn’t hear a lot of football jargon and technical analysis as I expected from a host of professionals. I remember Billy Kilmer appeared in the doorway for a few minutes that evening, smoking a cigar. I was surprised that he had smoked and had a pot belly. Athletes weren’t as buff and trim in that era, apparently.
Anyway, those were my first magical memories with New Orleans Saints. Dempsey’s field goal stands out in the dry season of the late 60’s/’70’s, along with wishing Archie Manning would have had the same supporting cast guys like Roger Staubach had in Dallas, because we knew Archie would have been equally great.
Proud moments since then, much less magical moments, have been sparse, although we recognize that the guys from the Dome Patrol/Bobby Hebert/Jim Mora era did provide some chest-swelling moments. (Although they never won a playoff game, at least they made the playoffs a time or two, and don’t we wish we had that set of linebackers today!).
The Payton/Brees era began setting the stage for magic that first year in the post-Katrina “Domecoming” party as we gleefully routed Atlanta on a Monday night. Then later, that same year, we made it to the NFC championship where our pride got caught up in the blustery Chicago flurries as our guys took their licks, obviously just not quite there yet.
So across the decades, our perennial, end-of-season sigh became a refrain: “There’s always next season.” We’d choose some other team to root for in the playoffs and forget about the Saints until the following July when hope re-kindled with training camp updates on WWL as Buddy D. and later Bobby and Deke and Hokey recharged our batteries with their hopeful banter.
We'll get 'em THIS year!
So earlier today, when I googled “New Orleans Saints” like I frequently do to find the quick link to the Saints home page, I smiled real big as Google announced the result of the last game and the opponent for the next game like this:
Whoa! Big difference between “the next game” and “the next season” this time!
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