The Saints start preseason work-outs this week. That’s generally cause for great joy, excitement and the pumping up of the eternal, often delusional optimism that defines a Saints fans.
Has there ever been a season before which we have not settled into the collective notion that this year is our year. Has a disappointing season ever ended when we didn’t collectively announce: Next year is our year?
OK, maybe 1980. In fact, definitely 1980. (Google it, kids.) Bagheads, anyone?
But will they actually play out this season? Will the NFL be able to run the table without incident or accident? Some notable stars are opting out of the season for health concerns, new babies, expectant wives and – some might say – just common sense.
Try telling an NFL center to safely social distance.
But it’s a great time to be a punter, out there all alone on the North 40, 15 yards from the closest player. Or a kicker who just missed a 40-yard field goal attempt that could have won the game as time ran out.
Have you ever seen anyone so alone?
The NBA seems to be pulling it off in their “bubble.” (Bye, bye, Pels. Next year is our year!) Baseball is getting by with its virtual fan base and pumped in fan noise. But it’s all fun and games until somebody gets their cardboard head knocked off by an errant foul ball, right?
But there’s also no forgetting how important the Bless You Boys were in our recovery from Katrina. After a dismal 2006 season, they became – and remain – one of the ascendant teams in the league and our city hitched our hope and pride in the team and they didn’t fail us.
Steve Gleason became a cultural hero – even before he got sick and became the moral inspiration and compass of our city. Drew Brees became King of the New Orleans. The Saints made us feel like – as a community, as a collective – that we weren’t losers after what had happened here.
And a lot happened here.
Can they do it again? After three consecutive crushingly disappointing seasons? Three years in which we were just one game – sometimes just one play – away from another Super Bowl bid.
One difference is that this season, it’s not just New Orleans looking for a distraction, an inspiration, a savior. We’re not the underdog that the whole country is rooting for anymore. It’s everyone this time, from Seattle to Tampa Bay to – hell, Istanbul to Papua New Guinea.
Such is the world we possess. A season on the brink, to be sure. Every play – every day – is a Hail Mary pass.
Let’s just hope she’s listening.