It was 42 years ago today that the NFL awarded a franchise to the City of New Orleans, John Mecom Jr, and me. Until that day 42 years ago, I was a Los Angeles Rams fan, a Baltimore Colts fan, a St Louis Cardinals fan, and an Oakland Raiders fan. Didn't like the Packers, Bears, or Cowboys. Was pretty indifferent to everyone else.
Before the NFL started branding and licensing everything, the Saints home game experience was unique in the NFL. They had the best and longest halftime and pregame shows sometimes featuring Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, the Southern and Grambling Marching Bands, the LSU Marching Band, and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide Million Dollar Band. We had doubloons in the programs (Wish I'd saved a few) and Falstaff, Jax, and Dixie draft beer from space age backpacks served in the stands. I never once tasted that beer. Those backpacks were gone by the time I was old enough to buy alcoholic beverages in 1975 and the Saints had moved from Old Tulane Stadium to the sparkling new SuperDome.
Dad had a thing about free parking. He didn't like to pay for that privilege even if it meant parking a mile away so we'd actually park about a mile away in a neighborhood he used to live in (Around Apple and Dublin for those who know the area) and we'd make our way to Tulane Stadium from there. The free parking gene is something he got from his dad but that was the end of the line for that particular family trait. He did not pass it on to his son. Before the game, with people arriving at various times, you could usually catch the Claiborne bus to the Tulane campus. After the game, when everyone was leaving at once, the lines were too long to get on that bus so we'd walk back to the car.
I only have a few select memories from all of those games we went to at Tulane Stadium. I remember John Gilliam running through a gaping hole for the franchise's first touchdown on the opening kickoff of their first game. I remember Al Dodd making a spectacular sideline catch to set up Tom Dempsey's record 63yd field goal to beat the Lions. I remember Danny Abramowicz catching everything in sight. If he'd played somewhere else, he might be in the Hall of Fame. I remember Archie Manning, in his first NFL game, leading the Saints to an upset victory over the Rams, scoring the winning TD, himself, on the last play of the game. He fumbled at the goal line but the referees called it a touchdown. I remember a big bench-clearing brawl at the end of a Saints-Steelers game. A Saints player and a Steelers player were tussling after the last play of the game and the other players on the field were just standing around watching. While that was going on, a Steelers player looked up Abramowicz, found him watching the tussle, and kicked him in the butt. That happened right in front of us as we were leaving. All hell broke loose after that.
Quote of the Day
A local journalist and radio/TV personality, Buddy Diliberto, wore a paper grocery bag over his head to protest the Saints' poor performance during the season. Many fans took to wearing bags over their heads when attending games. The moniker "Aints" was also born due to the ineptitude of the 1980 Saints.
Blog of the day here.
Quote from said blog: "To make the playoffs, the Saints will need to win no less than 10 games--and even that might not be enough. They play in what is now shaping up to be the most competitive division in the NFL, so a 10-6 record might not cut it."