Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the New Orleans Saints.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
Two words: blocked punt.
New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Superdome stood as a symbol of what went wrong. The building that had once hosted Super Bowls was tattered with part of its roof ripped off as thousands huddled inside seeking shelter from the rising waters. Stories from the inside were grim. Many suggested the Saints abandon the building. Some wouldn't have blamed owner Tom Benson if he scurried to San Antonio. Other businesses had left town. But Benson stayed, rebuilt and emerged even stronger.
New Orleans is no stranger to big events. But this was like the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest packed into one night. Or day, really. Fans started lining Poydras Street as early as 7 a.m. Megastars U2 and Green Day played. Fans cried. And the game. Oh, what a game.
The Saints throttled the Falcons, 23-3. Atlanta had no chance. There was no possible way the 70,000 in attendance and millions watching at home were not going to magically will the Saints to victory. The defining moment came when special teams ace Steve Gleason blocked a punt. A play that has been immortalized with a statue outside of the Superdome. A play that Saints faithful can still close their eyes and see today.
This was more than the Saints saving football in New Orleans that night. They helped revitalize New Orleans itself.
And seriously, September 25th should be a holiday in New Orleans. Have at least one more.
In 2011, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Ever since, he has spent his time as an activist for the debilitating disease, raising millions of dollars for the cause through his "Team Gleason" organization. He was a face of the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, and his "No White Flags" approach has inspired so many.
Undefeated in the Super Bowl
But the Saints blew away the Indy Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17. Fine, it was closer than the score indicates. But Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw one of his patented pick-sixes to seal the game. In other words, a Manning finally delivered a championship to the Saints. Sorry, that joke will be a lot funnier when we come to the Archie Manning section of this piece. BTW, did you know Archie played for the Saints? Let's move on.
Tracy Porter's pick-six of Peyton wasn't the only memorable play of Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints actually trailed the Colts 10-6 at halftime. But then Sean Payton made one of the ballsiest calls in NFL history, ordering up an onside kick. (And realize, this is not something in the nature of most NFL coaches. None of them like to take chances. Hell, they don't like to show too much leg in a preseason game. To make this call -- in the friggin' Super Bowl -- displays another level of gumption typically reserved for the guy who goes up to a woman and asks her if she's pregnant. I mean, hell. One of my co-workers might or might not be pregnant, but there is no way on God's green earth I'm going to ask her when the baby is due. Never. Never. Never.)
Archie Manning was the longtime (long-suffering) quarterback of the Saints. Back when the team was miserable. A time known as the first couple decades of the Saints' existence. Seriously, it was awful. The team didn't have a winning season until Year 21. Fans wore bags over their heads. Even Bum Phillips, Ken Stabler and Earl Campbell couldn't overcome the organization's prolific ineptitude. Although the latter two were well past their prime. The Saints' build to respectability was a slow burn. Like properly cooking grits. (Really, I know nothing about grits other than what I saw on "My Cousin Vinny" on HBO the other night. Seriously, Marisa Tomei won her Academy Award for that and not her turn in "The Wrestler" a few years ago? I lost a trivia night because of that. Guess that stuff evens out, though.)
Who roots for this team?
The best people. The wife and I were down at the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, hanging at this cool Irish bar. (As if there is any other kind.) We struck up a conversation with some Saints season ticket holders, Pat and Shelly. Both retirees having the time of their lives. So we wanted to do the right thing, as we do in polite society, and buy them a drink. And then Shelly said -- bless her heart -- "We like to take shots."
We introduced them to pickleback shots. If you've never done this, you're missing out. Not as gross as it sounds. And if you have ever done one in New Orleans, I would like to think it was because the wife and I brought it to Pat and Shelly.
Did they really trade an entire draft for Ricky Williams?
Oh, it happened.
Then-Saints coach Mike Ditka -- and seriously New Orleans, what were you doing? Mike Ditka wasn't a great NFL head coach. The '80s Bears should have won a minimum of three Super Bowls, but you probably won't recapture the magic -- was enamored with Williams. Which I guess happens when you at one time coached the GOAT, Walter Payton.
But if you pay that price for a running back and end up getting fired -- like Ditka did after the 1999 season -- it's not a great look.
The Kyle Turley No. 68.
One of the most infamous plays in Saints history occurred in 2001, when Turley emerged from a scrum with Jets players and tossed the helmet of Damien Robinson across the field in an epic tirade. Obviously, this highlight was played more than "In Da Club" at Las Vegas establishments in the early 2000s. And I once had the chance to ask Turley if he ever regretted it.
"What would I have to regret?" he said matter-of-factly.
You threw a dude's helmet?
But Turley explained that he heard his quarterback, Aaron Brooks, scream in pain and Turley did what he was paid to do: protect the quarterback. Obviously, the helmet toss was the headline. But Turley was being a good teammate.
I spent about an hour talking to Turley about so much more, including surfing and music, and I found him to be pretty intelligent and fascinating. If I had to make a top 10 of my favorite player interviews, Turley is on that list.
The franchise's best
Morten Andersen played 25 seasons in the NFL, but I will always most closely identify him with the Saints (even though he did spend a lot of time with the hated Falcons). I just remember how maddening he was as a fan of the opposing team, knowing Andersen was going to always knock in the field goal to beat your team. I remember one kick in 1991, when he nailed it to put the Saints into the playoffs with a win over the Los Angeles Rams. It was the second time the Saints made the playoffs. And even though it was a chippy field goal, you knew the Rams were doomed once the Saints went inside the 50.
Not enough credit
Manning threw 125 touchdowns during his NFL career. He also threw 173 interceptions. That's more picks than Jay Cutler.
Yet somehow, Archie became NFL royalty for some reason. Ridic.
Closing fun fact
This is a little early for such proclamations -- with the Saints being my second entry in this series -- but if I had to choose a team right now, the Saints would be my leader in the clubhouse. With the Saints having posted three straight 7-9 seasons, you won't be called a bandwagon fan. Which is huge for me. The yearly trip to New Orleans would be a huge bonus. For instance, the Bears play at New Orleans this year. I'm likely going to that game. (Also, WrestleMania returns to NOLA in 2018. And again, I don't want to miss that.) So, the visiting the city thing is great. Plus, Saints Swag looks pretty cool. Seriously, this series is over. The Saints are your winner.