Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify. Because the players
are always changing, the team can move to another city, you’re actually rooting
for the clothes when you get right down to it. You know what I mean, you are
standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from
another city. Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another
team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt, they
hate him now. Boo! different shirt!! Boo. – Jerry Seinfeld
I was born and raised in south Louisiana. I was a kid in the 70s and 80s. Back then the Saints sucked. Not just a little in the down year Broncos kind of way. We’re talking millenial Lions suck.
The fans wore paper bags over their faces for God’s sake.
But the Saints were our team. We didn’t have an MLB franchise. The A’s nearly moved to New Orleans in the 80s, but I guess they had better access to steroids in Oakland. The Jazz moved to Utah and took the inappropriate moniker with them.
So you could root for the Yankees and the Bulls and nobody gave it much thought. You were making the best of a bad situation. But the Saints, for better or worse, were our team.
They were bumbling and loveable most of the time. Even my grandmother, who cared little about sports, rooted for Archie Manning in those brutal early years.
I remember the coat closet in the 2nd grade. There was a pile of Saints jackets, a pile of Cowboys jackets, a few Steelers and then some miscellaneous other ones. I was a miscellaneous. My mom decided I needed a jacket that wouldn’t get mixed up with another kid’s. She bought me a Bills jacket. It never got mixed up. It was the only one in the closet.
What does all this mean?
Glad you asked dear reader(s).
I have never been a true diehard Saints fan. My dad wasn’t a sit on the couch on Sunday and watch football dad. We had stuff to do. I didn’t live and die week in and week out.
In my 20s and 30s I began playing fantasy football and my sense of loyalty became entirely mercenary. I rooted for whoeve would help my team win in a given week, and if I was lucky at the end of the season. In the early days, that led to a few seasons of quasi-Buffalo Bills fandom and later I found myself rooting for Michael Vick.
Say whatever you want to. He won me two titles.
When Houston finally got a team, I’d been living in the Space City for several years. We were expecting kids. I decided I’d get on board on the ground level and build in a sense of team loyalty in my kids.
The Texans have not made that easy.
In fact, its been quite like being a Saints fan in my youth.
Maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome.
Whatever the case, when I started showing interest in the Saints’ season this year, my wife called me a bandwagon jumper. I took offense, even though I think, in a sense, she was right.
I never bled black and gold.
I never thought Bobby Hebert was taking anyone to the promised land.
I didn’t do the Benson Boogie.
But the Saints were the team of my youth.
And you can take the boy out of Louisiana, but you can’t take the Louisiana out of the boy.
Time passes. Your personal geography changes. But that early indoctrination is hard to overcome.
So watching the Texans come up short yet again while the Saints are heading to the Super Bowl for the first time in their history is bittersweet.
Congratulations to the Saints and all of their loyal fans. You’ve waited a long time and I’m happy for all of you.
I’ll be rooting for you on Super Bowl Sunday. I want to see that Trophy in the Superdome. I want to see the celebration on Bourbon Street. I want the victory parade to run down Canal.
I want the years of suffering to mean something.
Then, I can justify being a Texans fan.
Then I can show my boys that it can happen if you are patient.
I can show them what being a fan is all about.