I never had the chance to meet my wife's dad from New Orleans. He passed away about before I met him, and a year before the Saints won the Super Bowl. As a little girl, Melanie remembers how Amedee from "down da bayou" bought his season tickets to all the New Orleans Saints games in old Tulane Stadium in 1967. He remembers the year before - November 1, 1966 - in the Patio Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles. This was the place where NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle stepped on stage and confirmed the rumors that had been printed in local papers months before. "Professional football has voted a franchise to the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans."
Older Saints fans remember the very first play on Sunday afternoon September 17, 1967.
And just a few years later, in 1970, a kicker named Tom Dempsey would make history.
After a couple of individual milestones, it was beginning to sink in that the Saints could never become a championship team. Ever. National media believed it. Fans knew it. In the late 70's, New Orleans was labeled as the "Aints," and the infamous paper bags started to appear in the Superdome; covering fans' faces. As a kid, I remember it well. It got so bad, the Saints decided to choose a PUNTER in the first round of the NFL draft in 1979 (Russell Erxleben from Texas).
The Black and Gold never made the play-offs until 1992, when they lost the first game. The Saints did get better in the middle 80's; although they would not win a play-off game until 43 years later after the franchise was awarded. That victory on December 30, 2000 got owner Tom Benson to do a happy dance-the Benson Boogie.
Just a few years later in 2005, tragedy would strike with Hurricane Katrina. Total devastation. Almost 2000 dead. And a decimated dome shelter filled with filth, sickness and eventually 10 deaths. Shortly after, owner Tom Benson helped to create a miraculous story: A total rebuild-of the Superdome AND a team in which they could have some faith. Sean Payton. Drew Brees. Reggie Bush. And then, an amazing return to the Dome on September 25, 2006 against Atlanta. It was on that night when some Steve Gleason magic was unleashed.
Fast forward to February 7, 2010, when the unthinkable happened. The Saints were Super Bowl XLIV World Champions. The WhoDat nation went euphoric in this dramatic come-from-behind win over the Colts. One of the biggest moments in the game came from Port Allen's very own Tracy Porter with a critical interception in the 4th quarter to seal the WhoDat deal.
Just a few weeks ago on Monday Night Football against Washington, Drew Brees created some more magic, becoming the NFL's all-time passing leader on a 62 yard TD pass; surpassing New Orleans native Peyton Manning.
In their beginning, the Saints' first regular season in 1967 was against the Los Angeles Rams. THIS Sunday, the undefeated Rams return to The Big Easy. This time, it won't be easy. But, history shows it can be done. We've seen it before. And even though Saints owner Tom Benson is gone, that Black and Gold magic remains.