OPINION: Victory was sweet for long-suffering Saints fans … like me

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Dear John:
Forgive my absence on Monday. I was sick, a skin infection brought on by the abrasion of innumerable high fives shared with friends and family when Tracy Porter returned a pick 74 yards the night before.
It was then that I dared to dream.
You see, I’ve played this psychological game with the Saints this season, even though they won 13 games, earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC and won the championship game.
I play the games, because for years the Saints played them with me. They would take me to the edge of victory, and then, poof, it was gone. Or they would just lay down altogether and get smashed.
As you know, I grew up in Denham Springs, La., about an hour from New Orleans. I caught the Saints itch early, and my parents would take me to a few games a year in the formative years from late elementary to early high school.
I saw great moments in NFL history. Remember how bad Tampa Bay was when it entered the league in 1976? Remember those Dreamsicle uniforms? The Bucs lost their first 26 games. It was late in Year 2 of their existence, a December Sunday when they appeared on the schedule.
My dad got tickets. It was a no-brainer. How often did you go to a Saints game knowing they would win? What a great feeling it was driving down to the city that day. You just knew something good was going to happen.
If statistics alone didn’t give you that confidence, Archie Manning had guaranteed it. “It would be a disgrace to lose to Tampa Bay,” he said.
I don’t have to tell you how it ended. Bucs 33, Saints 14. The ride back was far less enjoyable. We listened to the hosts on WWL making random calls to people in Tampa, Fla., saying, “Hey, you guys won, what do you think of that?”
Howard Cosell had a field day with Archie’s comments on the highlights on Monday Night Football.
I saw the Saints play well some games but watched late leads slip through their fingers.
I saw some wins in the Superdome, too. It was a great feeling to be in the city after a win. It’s a true love affair with the team.
Nothing’s been easy for this franchise. Years of losing, then rising to the level of an occasional playoff appearance but going from that first appearance in 1987 to 2000 before it got its first postseason win.
Then the flood that followed Katrina devastated the city and put the Saints’ future in doubt. What a void there would have been, not only for the city. These are far more than New Orleans’ Saints. There’s a deep Mississippi connection here not only from geography but also from Archie’s career there.
Now this? A Super Bowl win, a well-played championship game with no turnovers, limited penalties and getting off the deck from an early 10-0 deficit? They could have just folded. Heck, there was such jubilation after beating the Vikings in the NFC title game, such victory in just reaching Miami. They were the Saints, who would have blamed them?
And I’m supposed to work the day after?
I’m breaking out just thinking about it. More skin issues.
I would have provided you a doctor’s excuse, a certificate of authenticity for this story. But the dermatologist I would visit for such things is a local man, Dr. Jeffrey Houin.
I couldn’t catch up with Dr. Houin, though.
He’s a New Orleans native, a long-time sufferer like me, and he missed work too.
He was in Miami for the Big Game.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal and is now refocused and back at work. Read his blog about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.

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