Let’s get this straight.  I have been a fan of the New Orléans Saints since I was about 9 years old.  The beauty of growing up in Hawaii is that we don’t have professional sports teams.  Yes, it is a good thing; we get to pick any team we want and don’t feel pressured to cheer for the team that makes the most sense geographically.

When I was old enough to care about sports, Pennsylvania seemed to be kicking everyone’s butt–at least in baseball and football.  I have fond memories of watching Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lyn Swann, John Stallworth, “Mean” Joe Green, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and  Mel Blount dominate their opponents.  Yup, I was sold.  I did what made sense: cheer for the Steelers.  My dad even bought me a satin Steelers jacket, a replica helmet, and a Terry Bradshaw jersey.  I loved the Steelers (not to mention the Pirates) and loyally cheered for them until I watched a news story about the New Orléans Saints.  I can’t remember the specifics of the story, but I do remember the reporter talking about how the “hapless Aints” won a game.  The news story coincided with a school lesson about the Louisiana Purchase.  I was intrigued.

I began to cheer for the Saints.  Believe me, there wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about at first.  But then, towards the end of the decade, they began showing signs of turning the corner.  Jim Mora and a bunch of talented players came over to the NFL from the defunct USFL and immediately, the Saints began to show promise.  After the “Steel Curtain” in Pittsburgh, I was accustomed to dominating defenses, unfortunately, New Orléans didn’t really have one.  But then, the “Dome Patrol”–Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson, and Pat Swilling–was born.  Talk about a tenacious defense.

I still remember the game when Rickey Jackson walked out onto the field after having his jaw wired shut because of a car accident.  (He had that funky face mask, which he wore for the rest of his career, and still kicked butt.)  And the time when Dalton Hilliard pummeled All-Pro safety, Ronnie Lott, on national TV.  Times were good….

But even though they had those good seasons in the early 90s and at the beginning of the 21st century, championships and wins still generally eluded the team.  They seemed almost cursed.  How many of you remember the playoff game against the Jaguars in 2003.  They improbably scored a touchdown with 6 seconds to go and got within a point of tying the game only to lose when John Carney’s PAT attempt went wide right with no time left on the clock.  I watched that game.  Imagine the excitement and glee every Saints’ fan felt when Jerome Pathon ran the last leg of the lateral-relay to score that touchdown.  And then, the immediate and stunning agony we all felt when Carney shanked the PAT.  Talk about emotional roller coaster.

I had flashbacks last week.  I began preparing myself for the inevitable crushing blow when Garrett Hartley walked out onto the field for the second time in three plays.  I think Sean Peyton must’ve been feeling what I was feeling.  He sent Hartley out to kick for the win, but after a Redskin timeout, sent Drew Brees and the offense back out onto the field.  I though Peyton would keep them out there until they scored.  But after getting the ball centered and a little closer, he decided to break the curse.  I couldn’t look.  I squeezed my hands together and turned my head away.  Imagine the relief I felt when I heard that the kick was good.

This year, the curse seems to be gone.  Believe me though, I’m not making Super Bowl plans just yet.  I’ll count those chickens when they hatch.

That doesn’t mean I’m not optimistic though, just cautious.  They played a close game against Atlanta a few weeks ago, and will have to play them again this Sunday.  I’m hoping for a blowout.  I was trying to rationalize last week when it seemed that the Skins were going to end the Saints undefeated season that a loss would be okay because it would inspire the team and end the pressure of the perfect season  But, they survived and won.  I hope the way they won still has an inspiring affect on the team.  The pressure of the perfect season is still there, but I know they’re not going to give up.  They want that title just as badly as all their dedicated fans.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  It’s always good to be good, but it never hurts to be lucky too…

It seems the magic is on their side this year…finally, for once…Go Saints!

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