Friday, March 23, 2012

Laissez bon Velveeta roulez - or, Why I went home to watch the Super Bowl

isportsweb.com

This was not a good week to be a Saints fan.  Due to penalties imposed by the NFL for a 'bounty' program (paying defensive players to injure players on the other team), the Saints face some pretty stiff consequences.  Not the least of which is the one year suspension of the Saints head coach, Sean Payton.  If you aren't a Saints fan, then you probably don't care about any of this.  But for those of us who are, this is just sad--on so many levels.  

I came across this old note on Facebook that I wrote the week before the Saints went to the Super Bowl and won.  That was a great night.  I was just a couple of months post knee(s) injury, and had to make the trek home with much geriatric equipment in the trunk of the car, but I was there.  The sentiments I wrote about remain true, especially the part about the Saints being their own worst enemy.

So, for any other die hard Saints fans, this post is for you.

There has always been something special about going home for me. I’m one of only a handful of my friends whose parents still live in the house they grew up in. It doesn’t matter what my mom calls it now, that last bedroom on the right will always be MY room, not the guest bedroom. It is a house full of happy memories, and it remains one of my favorite places to be.

In the spring and summer, we were almost always out waterskiing or hanging out at the beach. But come fall, even if we did an early morning ski run and then went to church, every Sunday afternoon was dedicated to football. And in our house, that meant watching the Saints.

I’m not sure how or why this happened, it just always was. Being a Saints fan was most definitely not for the faint of heart. Why? Well, for the most part, the Saints almost always beat themselves. This was particularly shameful because they had one of the best quarterbacks ever – Archie Manning. I remember watching him scramble out of an almost certain sacks and make amazingly accurate passes to supposedly good players like Chuck Muncie and Wes Chandler. Passes that they would miss or fumble away. Or, if they did catch it, the miraculous touchdown would be negated by some personal foul 60 yards up the field (a situation that continues to haunt the Saints to this day). 

The high point for many games was the cheese dip my mom would make right before halftime. She would heat up large quantities of Velveeta in a double boiler (before the age of microwaves) and we would eat the yummy goodness during halftime, holding out hope that the next 30 minutes of game play would be better than the first 30 minutes. It usually wasn’t. I don’t eat this dip anymore (I mean seriously, is there even a single real food ingredient in Velveeta?), but it will forever be associated with watching Saints games when I was growing up.

This wasn’t a one time or one season situation – it was continuous. Remember the Aints? I do. I happened to be at the Superdome for my birthday that year, watching Morten Anderson do his best to win a game for the Saints. He even kicked a 60 yard field goal. They still lost.

Each new season brought a glimmer of hope, mainly because the Saints got so many first round draft picks because of their horrible records the previous year. Folks like Bobby Hebert, Ricky Williams, George Rogers, Deuce McAlister, not to mention headline coaches like Mike Ditka. Big names, with little to show for it.

I can remember Monday mornings in the 5th and 6th grade, before school started, holding court with all the boys, discussing the games from the day before. Almost everyone else was a declared Cowboys fan, which was very convenient, given that they were the golden team of the late 70s. Only one other person, Steve, was a diehard Saints fan. We took a lot of flack for that. To loosely borrow a phrase from Barbara Mandrell, we were Saints fans, when Saints fans weren’t cool.

There is an excitement about the Saints going to the Super Bowl that many people just don’t understand. It is about finally receiving some validation after decades of being remaining hopeful and passionate about a team of losers. It is about being excited for our daddies who never thought they would live to see this day (or really missing the ones that didn’t quite make it). It is about so much more than a single game.

But. as any true Saints fan knows, there are definitely no guarantees. After all, the Saints are often their own worst enemies. That’s why you won’t hear too many of us talking smack about this game. We’re Saints fans. We know better. We would love for this to be one of those blowout games that other people call boring, but even if that doesn’t happen, we are still claiming bragging rights.

So, come Sunday at kickoff, I plan on being right where I spent so many years dreaming of this day – in my parent’s living room, watching the Saints play in their first Super Bowl ever. Will they win? Maybe not, but that’s not really the point. I’ll yell, and I’ll cheer, and I’m sure I will groan. I’ll even enjoy watching everyone else eating Velveeta cheese dip. I’m pretty sure I’ll occasionally think about Steve, knowing that wherever he is, we’ve both gotten some vindication. Sure, it has been over 30 years coming, but it is better late than never. Especially if you are a Saints fan.



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