by Bert Bartlett
On a community panel last night at Loyola University, WWL’s Jim Henderson remarked that the Super Bowl was somewhat anti-climactic, compared to the Saints NFC Championship win over the Vikings. For him to some extent, things are about to start again where they left off. Things purple. Min-ne-SO-ta is back in town.
Because the NFL and NBC are going after Olympian ratings, the game has turned into both a late summer tropical storm and media spill, both on and off the field. The Today Show gets started bright and early at Jackson Square. Reportedly Drew Brees will give a live interview; if Souls Of The Saints were in charge of the quarterback’s schedule, it would be taped from the day before. Local TV coverage begins at 2. Concerts and a sequel parade downtown follow; it will be considerably warmer than last time, lest Al Gore go crazy. The Nightly News will be broadcast from here, as will the Tonight Show. Somewhere in there, a game is scheduled.
The game is no easier to handicap than last January’s. Both teams have balanced talent, spread evenly everywhere. Going in, the Vikes are suspect in the defensive backfield and the Saints are thin at linebacker. Sounds like a wash. Probable and questionable injury reports do not matter in a game like this. Players will do what they have to do to play. Trainers and team doctors will be busy.
Another Four In The Offing The clipped, childish enthusiasm in how John Madden used to pronounce “Brett Favre” on broadcasts is not missed here, preferring to be heard only on skits of Saturday Night Live. The Saints cannot pay attention to anything they have heard in the media about the ageless quarterback, whether how bad his ankle is, how dirty some of his teammates accused the Saints of being to him the first time around, or whether two weeks of training camp was long enough for him to prepare for this. Fact is, in the NFC Championship, considering all the circumstances, #4 was the best player on the field that day, and is the one the Saints should be ready to face. Saint linebacker Jonathan Vilma did say earlier this week, with accuracy, that his team was not out there to make friends. A clinical psychologist is better qualified to expound, but fear, fear of failure, is Favre’s greatest motivator and is where he gets his competitiveness. And the old man is plenty scared about Thursday night.
Believe It Or Not, the Vikings actually have the psychological edge coming into this game. Football teams generally perform best when backed into a corner, not when being admired like fashion models on a catwalk. After the Super Bowl banner is lowered in the Superdome, if the Saints are too entranced with Bob Hope’s Thanks For The Memories, they will find themselves looking up at a 0-10 or 0-14 deficit, and quickly. And if they are relying on Viking running back Adrian Peterson laying the ball on the ground several times, or for pass rush specialist Jared Allen to have as quiet a night like he did last winter, the Home Team could be in for a long evening. And an insurmountable one.
This is not to suggest that Welcome Home roses are being trashed into thorns for the Black & Gold. Keepin’ it real is more like it. Perhaps Reggie Bush will not be stripped of the ball on some long plays and punt returns, like his ’05 Heisman Trophy is apparently in the process of being. If it is ultimately returned, a class action case should be opened with the NCAA as defendants, them being contended to refund all monies from advertising, ticket sales, and merchandise whenever one of their college players broke the rules. That could result in a record Chapter 11. But ‘dat’s another matter, one for the lawyers to play with. If the Saints settle in, hang in there, get into their game and rhythm, they can take control of this thing and win it, even going away. ‘Dis, they know how to do.
Go Saints. Spin ‘Ten, Just Like You Want It. Make Another Record. A Smash Hit.
Welcome to the opening of the 2010 NFL season, and all of the games, reality TV, theatre, and soap opera it has to offer. N’awlins style.