It was Saturday, Jan. 8. I just had a weird feeling that morning that my New Orleans Saints weren’t going back to the Super Bowl this year — and that the euphoria that had followed them since the start of the 2009 season would come to an abrupt thud of an ending in the cold, dark gray of Seattle.
The wild card playoff against the Seahawks — the first sub-.500 division-winner in NFL history had “trap game” written all over it. The Saints seemed oddly flat after their Monday-night win at Atlanta right after Christmas. They couldn’t get up a temperature for the Buccaneers — same as the end of last year, but somehow different. And Seattle was heading into the playoffs with a lot to prove after its 7-9 season, and how better to shut people up than to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs?
There hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl winner since the ’03-04 Patriots, but there wasn’t a reason, during the winter and spring of post-victory feel-good, to believe New Orleans couldn’t do it again. After all, save for Scott Fujita bailing for Cleveland, the core of the team was essentially intact. But the Saints actually couldn’t get untracked the whole season, and that was well before the season actually started. There was that messy allegation brought up by the team’s former security director about Sean Payton and assistant coach Joe Vitt and some missing Vicodin — a story that somehow seemed to magically vanish. There was also the announcement that Drew Brees would be testing the jinx as the cover boy for Madden ’11. (He didn’t get hurt, didn’t have a bad year — maybe, hopefully, the jinx was just that he didn’t return to the big game.)
And when they did hit the field when it counted, starting with the Thursday-night opener against the Vikings, something was definitely amiss. Minnesota had a solid defense, but let’s just say I would’ve expected 14-9 to be a halftime score, not the final. And there were little things, too. For the second straight year, I drafted Marques Colston in my fantasy league, expecting him to be a touchdown machine once again. He didn’t get into the end zone the first six weeks of the season. Reggie Bush broke his leg, a harbinger of things to come. By the time of the Seahawks game, seven running backs were down and out (!!!), which usually puts a crimp in any team’s postseason plans. The Saints managed to rack up an 11-5, but it wasn’t convincing, even after beating the Steelers on Halloween night. And the Falcons game was merely a flag of false hope.
And besides, my heart wasn’t as much into it this season. As I wrote going into the season, I’ve had a lot of second thoughts about how deeply I want to invest anymore in a sport that turns many players into cripples and/or vegetables long before their time. I’ve felt myself pulling away, and these Saints didn’t quite encourage me to stick around.
So anyway, rather than sit at the folks’ house and rant and rave and cuss out the TV in a most unladylike manner, the way I did when the Giants pulled off their choke job against the Eagles my first Sunday home, I decided to do what every black-and-gold-blooded Saints fan would do in my situation — at least the unemployed ones, anyway: forsake the game all together and go to a Starbucks and crank out four resumes.
And I’d like to say that my prescience was rewarded — and, at least in the moment of the game, I was spared the agony of seeing Gregg Williams’ defense going all Greg Brady against Marshawn Lynch. (Fucking Marshawn Lynch! A guy who hadn’t gained 67 yards the last three seasons combined!) However, I didn’t even get a nibble out of any of those applications. One way or the other, it seems as if was a wasted day. Except that, by applying for jobs, I at least gave myself the illusion I was doing something constructive.
Anyway, same as last year, I’ll be at the Landmark tomorrow for the annual Super Bowl party. I don’t have a horse in this game, but I guess I’ll be pulling for the Packers. I never hated the Steelers by any stretch, but I’m certainly pulling against any team with a Roethlisberger, I’m an NFC gal (Saints and Giants), the Packers were one of my first ins into understanding football as a fifth-grader (when I read Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap’s groundbreaking “Instant Replay”), and besides, I have one of those cool 1994 throwback Packer replica jerseys that I can rock.
And I’ll celebrate the first anniversary of this here blog, which actually is today. But I began it with posts before and after the game last Super Bowl Sunday.