Have you thought about what former New Orleans sportscaster Buddy D might have said after the most impactful blown no-call in NFL history a week ago Sunday? Buddy wasn’t the easiest guy to understand, but what he lacked in enunciation skills, he made up for with passion. Buddy would have had little empathy for the refs who unjustly ruined the Saints' season.
You could hear shades of Buddy D Monday afternoon on WWL Radio when host and former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert was going off on the now infamous no-call. Hebert, also difficult at times to understand, especially when he’s angry, spitting and hollering, fielded one call after another from enraged listeners a full eight days after the refs robbed the Saints of a Super Bowl.
Hebert and his callers couldn’t believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was hiding in the shadows, refusing to acknowledge the great injustice his league had wrought on a city that loves its team like no other. You could hear a genuine and authentic sense of betrayal and powerlessness. Most of the callers still seemed stunned. The season held such promise. How could it end this way? How could the refs be so blind? What were they possibly thinking?
2019 was supposed to be the “prove them right tour,” featuring a team loaded with talent and backed by a loud and loyal fan base. We had the best record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. What could stop us?
More than a week after a heartbreaking loss in the NFC Championship, Drew Brees has a message to fans: "Keep your chin up."
Some believe the refs robbed us not because of ineptness, but intentional sabotage. Conspiracists believe the NFL didn’t want us in the Super Bowl. Why would they? We’re a poor, relatively small city compared with other NFL franchises. What made us think they’d pick us over the nation's most densely populated urbanized area, Los Angeles? Glamorous L.A. Lala land. Home of the shiny people.
The thing is, it wasn’t supposed to be up to them. Football is not a popularity contest. Winners earn it on the battlefield, taking more ground than their opponent. In many ways, the sport resembles life. The harder you try, the more you work and prepare, the better your chances of success. In football and in life, victory should come to those who want it the most.
“I’ve spent this last week navigating the heartache and disappointment from the game. The longer I play, I realize that we truly are one heartbeat with our fans,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. “Our success is your success. Our disappointment is your disappointment. We are inspired by one another to accomplish things far greater than what we could ever do on our own.”
Yes, it’s just a game. But in New Orleans, the Saints mean so much more. When Steve Gleason blocked that punt in the first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, it marked the beginning of a rebirth and renewal of a city in bad shape. The city’s come a long way since Katrina, and the Saints have been there all along, fighting and striving.
ATLANTA — Perhaps the football gods knew it just wouldn't be right.
“Everything that has ever happened to this community, we have bonded together, galvanized and leaped forward every time,” said Brees. “The frustration we feel now can be channeled in the same way. Pour that passion and emotion into your families and communities. Inspire others with your focus and determination and positive outlook. This will make us stronger, this will bond us tighter, this will be a source for our success in the future. There is no place like New Orleans. There is no community like ours. No fans like the Who Dat Nation. I refuse to let this hold us down. I refuse to let this create any negativity or resentment. I embrace the challenge. So keep your chin up, hold your head high, puff your chest out because we are the Who Dat Nation and we will always persevere.”
How statesmanlike. You don’t hear the word "victim" come from Brees much.
Katrina, city hall corruption, violent crime, generational poverty, and flooding caused by clumsy bureaucrats. It’s been quite a ride recently for the Big Easy. But the thought now is, if we survived Katrina, anything’s possible. As long as the refs don’t screw it up, right?
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com. Twitter: @FaganShow.