It took 42 years for it to happen, but the biggest sports story in Louisiana history has happened.
The New Orleans Saints, a team that had fans at one time wearing bags on their heads and were called by national pundits “The Aints,” have made it to Super Bowl Sunday.
I am someone old enough to have seen it all.
I remember listening to the Saints first pre-season game against the Los Angeles Rams back in August of 1967 on a camping trip with my family.
It goes to show how far back that is. Los Angeles doesn’t even have a professional football team anymore.
I went to the first Saints pre-season game against the Atlanta Falcons in old Tulane Stadium with my dad and brother and then went to the Saints second game of the 1967 regular season as the Washington Redskins and quarterback Sonny Jurgensen carved them up 30-10.
I have seen all the players since, like Bill Kilmer, Doug Atkins, John Gilliam, Tom Dempsey, Archie Manning, Danny Abramowicz, Chuck Muncie, Morten Anderson, Bobby Hebert, Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson, Pat Swilling, Willie Roaf, Kyle Turley, Ricky Williams, Joe Horn, John Carney, Deuce McAllister, La’Roi Glover and a cast of characters and players too numerous to mention.
But the 2009 version of the New Orleans Saints were different.
This was the best football team ever assembled by the New Orleans organization and I got to write to you about this in late August.
I am no football prophet, but I could tell even in the summer that this team had a legitimate chance to get to the big show.
They had the best quarterback in team history in Drew Brees, the best group of pass catching receivers in the NFC, a very underrated and proficient offensive line, a potential All-Pro performer at defensive tackle in Sedrick Ellis, a very, very talented middle linebacker in Jonathan Vilma and the best secondary ever in team history led by Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Darren Sharper.
And while I was not yet sold on second year kicker Garrett Hartley, I knew they had a pretty strong special teams unit.
Who would have figured that Hartley would be the guy to kick this team to a Super Bowl berth.
And they also have one of the most innovative head coaches in the pro game in Sean Payton on offense and one of the smartest and most imaginative defensive coordinators in the game in Gregg Williams.
For Saints fans, soak in the 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. It wasn’t the most artistic game played by the Saints this season. It was more like a slugfest like Ali vs. Frazier and whoever could take the football shot the best would be the victor.
The Saints won the game Sunday afternoon because they were the more physical team, the more aggressive team creating turnovers, and more importantly, with very little playoff experience under their belts they were the most poised team.
In crucial spots in the game against Minnesota, it was the Vikings that made mental and physical errors that turned the football tide.
The Saints won the game because they were the more talented team, but they also won it because they were the smarter team and the more poised team under football fire.
Enjoy the moment ‘Who Dat’ fans because who knows when you may get here again.
I know I will because the long ride was worth the moments I got to see Sunday night.
It was truly a Saintly evening in south Louisiana.
I also must salute the players and coaches that signed on with the Saints back in 2006 and 2007. Remember this was right after Hurricane Katrina ravaged a good portion of our land and while money is important to anyone in life, so is location.
Just think, with options on hand to locate elsewhere, many of the players on this team today signed on with no guarantee what would happen economically, structurally or even government wise in our area.
They took a chance signing with the Saints and moving their families to a place that had not been portrayed very well in the days and months after Hurricane Katrina.
In the locker room last week, virtually every one of those players talked about not only playing for the team, but also playing for the region.
Thanks guys, you have made this quite a football season to remember.