While others shopped, I sat in the car outside a Marksville, La. strip mall on a hot September day listening to the Saints game on radio. The year was 2005, we were in our Hurricane Katrina exile and not much was going well, including the Saints game.
Ideally the Saints should’ve provided some relief for our misery and uncertainty during the season of 2005; instead they added to the worry. The franchise was playing its home games in San Antonio. With the Superdome practically destroyed and the population of New Orleans dispersed, there was concern that the team might not ever come back. The phrase “San Antonio Saints” made me quiver …
So did listening to the games. Not only was the team playing poorly but the broadcast quality of the central Louisiana station that carried them sounded as though the signal came through a hose. Jim Henderson and Hokie Gajan seemed to be in a box as their words of despair echoed.
About the only advantage to listening to the game on radio rather than watching it on TV is that I was spared seeing Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks’ maddening grin every time he dropped the ball, which he did often.
I realize now that as painful as the losses were I was really in a lose-lose situation because deep down inside I probably wanted the Saints to be defeated. Winning might have made the team more attractive to the folks in San Antonio, where the mayor there was already talking about securing the franchise. Subconsciously I might have been hoping for the old boring Saints whose misery would be even more apparent if Aaron Brooks would only stop smiling.
A couple of Saints games were played in Baton Rouge but the experience was more like going to a wake than to a celebration. Since Roman times we’ve known that Saints and Tigers shouldn’t be housed in the same coliseum.
In the end the Saints won only three games: an opening day victory at Carolina, another on the road against the Jets and a fourth week “home” match up against the Buffalo Bills. Thankfully the folks in San Antonio only got to witness one victory. Included among the losses was a 50-3 pounding by the Green Bay Packers and a defeat by the usually anemic Detroit Lions.
Once the season was over the situation began to look even worse. Head Coach Jim Haslett was fired, but instead of the Saints finding a replacement with head coaching experience, they came up with a little-known assistant coach from the Dallas Cowboys named Sean Payton. Mercifully Aaron Brooks was let go, but here again the team seemed to fail: Instead of finding a seasoned starter, they signed a too-short quarterback whom the San Diego Chargers had released because of a bum shoulder named Drew Brees.
From the perch of the season of 2005, one could’ve looked five years into the future and seen New Orleans as a town that had fallen not just in size and esteem but also in being a major league city. (Even the Hornets appeared bound elsewhere, to Oklahoma City.)
It seemed likely that by 2010, the Saints would be playing in another town having finished their tenure in the city of their birth without ever winning a post-season game.
Who could have imagined that when the 2009 season ended it wouldn’t be Aaron Brooks, but the world that would be smiling?