Who Dat! (An appreciation of Super Bowl champions)

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Here at JeffPearlman.com, we try and mix things up with occasional guest bloggers. Bruce Weber is a noted TV sportscaster who began his career covering the New Orleans Saints. His take on their latest—and greatest—achievement …

If hell really did freeze over two weeks ago when the New Orleans Saints made it to their first Super Bowl, does their improbable win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV mean the world is about to end?  Makes me wonder.

Shortly after Garrett Hartley kicked the Who Dats to Miami, I wrote that if you live long enough you’re bound to see anything happen. But never in my wildest dreams did I believe the New Orleans Saints would one day win a Super Bowl. Here’s why …

Nearly 30 years ago, fresh out of college and having just covered my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers in back to back Super Bowl wins, I took a leap of faith and started my professional career in Louisiana. stablerI was about to trade in my assignment of covering the four-time Super Bowl Champs for a team that had never even had a winning record. It was like going from Cindy Crawford to Roseanne Barr.

My first season covering football in The Big Easy saw the Saints go 1-15. That was the year the Aints were born. More people wore paper bags over their heads than beads around their necks. And this was in the city known for Mardi Gras!

I’m wondering how guys like Tommy Myers, Derland Moore, Chuck Muncie and Russell Erxleben are feeling today. I know how the patron Saint, Archie Manning, must be feeling. The always classy former QB is probably happy for his old team and adopted hometown, but brokenhearted for Peyton, who I fondly recall running around the Saints old facility as a toddler.

My 14 years covering the Saints was like watching the stock market. It was always up and down. Lots of highs and lows. Dick Nolan could never post a winning record as head coach. Bum Phillips came riding in on his horse from Houston, made the mistake of trading high draft picks for his favorite washed-up Oilers (think Earl Campbell and Ken Stabler), and never got the Saints to the playoffs. Jim Mora, fresh off of championships in the USFL, finally got the Saints to the playoffs, but could never win a game in the NFL’s second season.

When I left Louisiana in early 1994 the Saints were back in their familiar free-fall mode. And frankly that’s how I expected them to remain for the rest of my life. But Mardi Gras came early in 2010. The city ravaged by Katrina is down no more. Bless You Boys, is what they’re saying in Louisiana today. Un-bleeping believable is what they’re saying on Bourbon Street. Can you blame them?

So here’s to you, New Orleans Saints. And here’s to some people I will always think of when I look back on my fourteen memorable years of covering the New Orleans Saints.

The late Jerry Wynn: A PR man’s PR man.

Bill Curl: The only publicity man the Superdome has ever had, or ever needed for that matter.

Jerry Romig: The Saints 12th man and long-time Superdome Public Address announcer.

Jay Romig, Silky Powell, Dan Simmons and Kevin Mangum: Longtime team employees who truly deserve the Super Bowl ring they will soon wear.

The late Buddy D: The popular broadcaster who is probably still placing his bets from above.

The late Wayne Mack: The one-time Saints play by play man and Pat O’Brien’s regular.  May we all raise a Hurricane in Wayne’s honor.

Peter Finney: The classy columnist from the New Orleans Times Picayune, who after covering the team from the very beginning finally saw them win it all at 82 years young.

I am, and always will be, a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was the team I grew up with, and later got to be around during their glory years. Yet after being so close to the New Orleans Saints for so many years I find it hard not to have a special feeling for the one-time NFL’s punching bag. Today you can count me among Who Dat Nation, so happy and so proud.

So repeat after me: Bless You Boys!

Who Dat!

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