There are some places – and this is science, folks – where the amount of tailgaters and pre-game revelers is directly proportionate to a football team’s record. Let’s call it, T = W/L. Why not. For, in all cities as the hometown club sits atop the food chain, everyone is out en masse. The truly hardcore are surrounded by the not-so-hardcore. The old school fans stand grill-in-grill with the, “isn’t this fun? I told you this would be fun!” crowd in their crisp new jerseys. And as the bandwagon picks up more passengers, everyone believes that victory is at hand. On the other hand, a losing team’s fan base, sometimes, is missing in action. The parking lots and bars aren’t filled hours before kickoff. Team colors aren’t splashed over every window and chest, the hometown pride an afterthought. No face paint to see here. These people find reasons to catch the game next week, or “maybe after they win a few.” The city streets themselves feel haunted by memories of long forgotten seasons.
That city is not New Orleans.
The Black and Gold streamed throughout the Crescent City, 0-3 be damned! The Whodat nation was out in force, and an observant scientist couldn’t tell if the boys and girls in Black and Gold were winless or undefeated. And, on top of that, the Cowboys were in town (in large numbers), and no one was in the mood to back down to Dallas.
The Sunday night game afforded fans an extra long tailgate, and the parking lots and warehouses were packed. At the cacophonous World of Beer, the fans knocked back brews, while watching the 3 o’clock games, all the while keeping an eye on their watch, and planning on when to make the move to the stadium.
The bars on Tchoupitoulas had their gates out, creating a block party atmosphere at Lucy’s and Barcadia, where hundreds of Saints fans imbibed and, as the day turned to evening, began revving up the ‘Whodat!” chants that echoed along Poydras and Girod. At Vic’s, a smaller and definitely local crowd, kept reassuring each other that tonight was the night, and that the city would finally get to celebrate its first football victory in far too long.
The believers rolled into the Superdome expectant. The Saints couldn’t possibly lose this one could they? The Saints were getting their wounded cast of veterans back, and now it was the other team, that had to deal with missing stars. The evening sky faded to night, and fireworks lit up the stadium floor.
Thunder. That’s what I kept telling myself. The Dome sounded like rolling thunder that had no end. The crowd believed, and they made it known. If you watch a lot of pro football, you will notice that there are many teams – winning teams – whose fans are, umm, different. As in, sometimes they don’t show up. You’ll see large sections of seats empty, and the ones that do show up, for some reason, just refuse to get loud. I think it happens more than one would expect. I’ve run into it in stadiums in Cincinnati, Houston and a few college towns. Honestly, have you listened to a game in San Diego? It’s bizarre and strange and…that city is not New Orleans.
As the two teams trudged through a half of fits and starts, the home crowd kept confident, and the energy in the building was palpable. They just needed that one play. The one play that would let the city know that victory, at home, was in their hands. It’s a tricky find though. Football isn’t watched under a microscope. It can’t be calculated. Stats are just retrospect, and the lifeblood of armchair quarterbacks. Football is a living entity imbued with the emotions of thousands of men and women. So, even when you think you have it all figured out, you do not. The only thing in this 16-game rollercoaster ride that will keep you sane from all of the unpredictability is – belief. Believing that “the play” is right around the corner.
For much of the night, “the play” seemed like it would come from the defensive side of the ball. And, even though it was a night that saw the return of veterans like Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis it was the rookies that shined the brightest. Every sack – three in total – was by a rookie (Anthony, Kikaha and Davison). Delvin Breaux, who with the return of Lewis is going to see even more balls thrown to his side, locked down the Cowboy receivers in the red zone. Damian Swann was impressive at the nickel, and the play of undrafted rookie Bobby Richardson is already making the trade of Akiem Hicks look like a wise one.
Willie Snead, yet another rookie, had the best night of his young career, collecting six catches for 89 yards. And these catches, and his development, seems to loom larger than ever, with the disappearance of the deep ball, and thus, the game changing abilities of Brandin Cooks. Snead’s catches moved the chains all night long, and helped the Saints take a 20-13 lead deep in the fourth quarter. Then the defense had a chance to end the game – to make the play – but it was the Cowboys back-up quarterback, Brandon Weeden, who made a play, and the game was tied up.
So, this would be it. Drew Brees would make the play. It all looked so simple as Drew marched the Saints downfield, hitting Snead, then – lo and behold – the Saints hit on a deep pattern to Brandon Coleman. It was the play, it was all set up so nice, and the crowd was about to dance into the street, and Zach Hocker – yep, another rookie – missed the 30-yard field goal. And the energy and noise fell with the ball as it caromed off of the upright. The fans looked at each other with smiles of disbelief. Was that ‘the play’? Were the Saints going to lose in overtime?
It’s not just science, speed and muscle. It’s faith and hope.
The faithful spilled out of the cathedral into the city streets to spread the word.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Lagunitas Sucks IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Rebirth Brass Band “I Feel Like Funkin’ It Up”
Around the Way
The Leonard Fournette Heisman campaign continued in grand fashion with the LSU Tigers against the lowly Eastern Michigan Eagles. Fournette became the first SEC running back to ever rush for more than 200 yards a game, three weeks in a row. However, his most impressive play may have been after the game. As reported by ESPN, Fournette voiced displeasure with the Tigers performance, stating that they came out sloppy. "That's on the leaders. That is our fault. We didn't stop the laughing that was going on in practice, so we have to pick it up this week." Those are tough words from a leader for his troops, and scary words for future opponents. South Carolina, don’t say that you weren’t warned.
The Tulane Green Wave won their second game in a row, moving to 2-2, by dispatching the UCF Knights 45-31. Don’t let that score fool you, the Green Wave sat many of their starters after jumping out to a 38-10 lead, behind four touchdown passes from Tanner Lee, and an opportunistic defense that caused five turnovers.
And did you see the defensive play (starts at the 35 second mark) of the year by Parry Nickerson?
The next four weeks are pivotal for the Green Wave as they enter the toughest stretch of their schedule. They play four teams that are currently undefeated, with road games against Temple, Memphis and Navy. Their only home game during this gauntlet will be Oct. 16 versus Houston. And here’s a great idea – show up.
The Southern University Jaguars didn’t play this weekend. They will return next week, as they travel to Montgomery, Alabama to play Alabama State. More importantly, Devon Gales has been transferred to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta to continue treatment for a spinal injury, which occurred last weekend against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldog community has opened it arms to the Gales family. You can contribute to the Devon Gales Fund online, or by mailing a check to:
Southern University System Foundation
c/o The Devon Gales Fund
PO Box 9562
Baton Rouge, LA 70813
Open your wallets. Open your hearts.