Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What else can go wrong?

I remember once study for an exam all night. I had prepared for it for over a week. The notes, study groups, random recitations of important phrases were consuming my every being. It was the night before and I remember saying to a friend of mine that I was going to pull an all nighter to be ace this exam. I was in the study hall down the room from our dorm room watching people come in and out periodically throughout the night until it was early morning. Then I went down to the O.R. (cafeteria) to grab some last minute grub before the test. As I was sitting there eating I was still going through each chapter trying to remember the key points and important vocabulary. The room was quiet with anticipation of the exam, and I remember the teacher passing out what seemed like a thesis paper to each student for our exam. I was worried. Was my blue book going to hold all the right answers? Did I cover everything that was mentioned in class? Can I get through the next 2 hours without breaking my concentration?

What happened next? I laid an egg. I froze. I started spacing out on the random flyers on the bulletin board in the corner of the room. The pages of the exam seemed to never end, and I couldn't remember anything that I recited over the past 24 hours. I quickly folded up the exam then wrote on the top page, "No excuse. I bombed."

Needless to say I learned my lesson, no matter how much you prepare for something nothing outweights the fact that we have our bad days. Days when nothing goes right. You ever wake up late for work or school and feel like the rest of your day you're playing catch up? Ever have those moments when things start snowballing. You just wish the day would end. There's nothing you can do, but learn from your mistakes and move on.

Hence my point. The Saints had one of those days. When everything goes wrong. The type of day when your car gets a flat, you're late for an interview, you get fired from your job, and the phone gets disconnected at home because you're late on the bill. Then you spend the last part of your night telling the horror story to everyone you come in contact with to get sympathy or just another beer.

My Saints had this happen to them from the minute the opening kickoff. Penalty. Fumble. Penalty. Touchdown Ravens. Kickoff. Penalty. 3 and out. Touchdown Ravens. Interception Ravens. Touchdown Ravens. Even when the Saints seemed to be getting things going in the right direction, a penalty would negate the positive spin. I remember seeing Payton run out on the field screaming at the referee after a punt return. Our defender was hand slapped in the face then thrown to the ground. A surefire penalty right? Wrong. Just aggressive play by the Ravens. The whole game seemed like the complete opposite of what I had been watching all season. Still I watched. Grumbled something about needing more pressure on McNair then continued to cheer for our Boys. 5-2! It's not as bad as you would have thought. The game definitely didn't lend itself to any bright points other than the fact that we didn't give up. Chalk this one up as just a bad day. We've got the Bucs to think about. They're not going to be sympathetic to our woes, so let's see if Payton can "digest this loss" and come back with a win on the road.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Crab Cakes and Football.

That's how they do it in Maryland. Land of purple Ravens and out of control Orioles. I am looking forward to the Saints improving there record to double last years output. There are some things we all have to address.

1. Crowd noise must be at an all-time high when Baltimore is on offense. I want McNair to think he's having a concussion everytime he walks to the line of scrimmage. Either that or I want him to hear the voices of Fujita and Grant in his head evertime he drops back to pass. The 12th man will come into play this weekend in the Dome lets keep the Boys pumped up all game.

2. Brees continues to spread the ball around. Not many mention the fact that he's a tactician with ball. He dishes it out like MRE's after Katrina. Everyone gets a touch. This also spreads the defense out and makes them continually guess whose going to get it. I like this strategy because if you keep it up for 4 quarters the defense gets tired and you get a big play.

3. Defense bends but doesn't break. I know we are 13th in the league for defense still I would love to see us stuff Jamal Lewis while pressuring the heck out of McNair. If we can keep that horrible offense sputtering than we have a chance to ring up some points. I was scared last game with the missed tackles in the secondary. Especially on the Reggie Brown long touchdown run at the beginning of the 3rd Quarter. Hopefully Payton has corrected that and got his team back to fundamentals. Being in the right spot to make a play. That's all it is.

4. Duece and Reggie doing there thing. My bye week was spent praying to the patron saint of injuries for Duece's hamstring. Boy do we need him in the lineup. Without him running the ball teams just know we are going to pass. Reggie is doing a great job of creating havoc for defenses, but it's the combo of Duece and Reggie that makes us the most potent team in the league.

5. Gotta keep the faith. No doubting that this team is just starting to gel together. It makes me wonder what type of team will I be seeing towards the end of the year. Here's to seeing us on Sunday night against the Bengals, and to going 6-1!!! Go Saints!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Crazy times

It behoves me to note that it's been a while since I talked about something other than the New Orleans Saints, but that's been my life as of recent. With every passing week my eyes and heartbeat anticipate the upcoming game as if it were a celebration of life. There have been more important things happening in my life outside of my beloved Saints. I just find more time to concentrate on our secondary in 3rd and long situations over whether those people will ever get off that island in "Lost."

Today I spent the better part of my morning interviewing for a job. Yeah this is like the hundreth job interview for me. Going into these interviews has become quite comical as if I were Ben Afflect in "Good Will Hunting" pretending to be someone else in an interview. The phrases are the same just worded differently, but the reactions are what makes it so much fun.

"What made you decide on our company?"
"Well, you're the only ones to call me in for an interview. To be honest I've never heard of using a rubber ball to store a gallon of oil."
"What kind of supervisor are you?"
"A pretty unsuccessful one because I can't even supervise my dog's bathroom habits. No really I'm good, just not with others."
"Describe your multi-tashing skills?"
"Well I can manage to eat nachos while drinking a beer without ever missing a play during a Saints game. On the other hand I was the official beer person in my small group of friends and I was responsible for picking up multiple types of beer from different stores while managing a budget and kickoff time."

Sometimes when I see them struggling for words to ask a question I start smiling about what it must feel like to hold a position in which you have no idea of how to describe to others. What's your position? I'm in charge of the management structure development team assisting all regional supervisors. Oh, really. That sounds made up.

I feel like George Canstanza at times.
"It's not the looking for the jobs, but the listening. You see I'm looking, but more importantly I'm listening. The listening is very important."

I could be a general manager of a sports team, like the Zyphers or New Orleans Breakers? It really doesn't matter. I just love to hear those famous words at the end of an interview. "We'll be in touch." No you won't. If you do get in touch with me it's to offer me the job. If you don't call then it's pretty much implied that you're not hiring me. Just say that. Wow, crazy times. That's why the Saints are on the top of my mind.

Monday, October 16, 2006


It's an inevitable thing that we all want. You can't buy it. You can't steal it. Or be handed some of it. It's got to be earned. RESPECT.

We fight for it everyday. You know in some parts of the world it becomes an infatuated dream of many of men. The thing that we all learn is that no matter what people think or excuses made it is something that has to be hard-earned.

Just the other day my Boston friend and I were talking about our beloved Red Sox and how beleagured they looked this season. The conversation suddenly went into football and we started talking about his Patriots and my Saints. That's when the conversation took a dramatic turn. Everything I said about his team was out of respect because they have won consecutive SuperBowls in addition to compiling several winning seasons in a row. When he started talking about my Saints he asked very skeptical questions about how our defense was holding up against the run? I on the other hand understood where he was coming from. My team hasn't won anything special since 2000. We've been a team known to be streaky from season to season, not too mention quarter to quarter.

That's were I found myself this past weekend. Watching the game from home on my couch with my "Be a Saint" shirt, and my dog wearing his Ricky Williams jersey. The game was so uplifting the first two quarters. It seemed as if the stars were aligning for a huge upset, but then the 3rd quarter came and the Eagles started scoring. I became trepid and nervous. I cursed out loud the Richard Todds and Jubilee Dunbar of the Saints world. I looked over at my wife, who was sitting behind me watching from the kitchen table as she read a book, and it hit me. Stop disrespecting the Saints. Start believing. I muttered something under my breath about putting together a drive to tie this game up. Just then the heavens broke free, the angels rejoiced, and Joe Horn made a double move to free himself for the game tying touchdown. I smiled. All we need is a stop of defense. Wouldn't you know it the Eagles would use one of their timeouts that would play pivotal part to us winning in their final drive that resulted in a punt. It's as if the team, the city, it's fans everywhere knew that the Saints were going to pull this out. As the final ticks of the game faded into the distance with Carney's game winning field goal. I looked down at my shirt once again. "BE A SAINT." Earning the respect of fans everywhere is going to take time. More importantly I believe it will come soon enough.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Trials and Tribulations

It's another week in the NFL season and it so happens that my beloved New Orleans Saints are 4-1. While watching the game on Sunday it felt somewhat reminescent of previous years except for the fact that the defense got a stop, we had some calls go our way at the end, and Reggie won it for us. Still false starts, 3 and outs, plus you could tell the crowd was definitely not into that game until the Bush return.

Here are some of the things I noticed from the game and my experience watching the game.

1. Saints fans are to complacent with the fact that the Saints will revert to their old ways. During the game their were points when you could feel the frustration seeping through the screen into our hearts as the Saints struggle to muster first downs in the second half. Let's set the facts straight. These are not the same Saints you and I remember. They are talented on offense with a balanced attack and their defense has been steady enough to keep us in ball games. So if the Saints can change we should to. Stop the disbelieving and start believing that this team has a chance to win. Payton called out the fans after the game saying it was only loud on 3rd downs. He's right. The Dome needs to be rocking on every down the opponent has the ball. If teams like Cleveland, Jets, Green Bay, and even Houston can be loud why can't we be the loudest.

2. Defense gave up some yards rushing again and this is starting to be a trend. The power sweep play is the one that kills me. You know it's coming. Everyone knows it's coming and yet we have a difficult time stopping it. Galloway shredded through our secondary very comparable to Donald Driver in week 2. I know our defense is still gelling, and we've come a long way from last year, still I would like to see us start improving in the rush defense category. Roman Harper's injury will be a big hurt to our secondary especially with the way he plays up in the box. Omar Stoutmire will be replacing him which means you will be seeing more blitz packages in order to give the secondary some help.

3. Duece was loose. I think Sean Payton is starting to see the dividends that pays off from running Reggie and then subbing in Duece. It creates a dicatomy that is rival to what other teams strive for in their running game. A different speed and look. I love the fake reverse draw up the middle. That play has been huge for us. Love to see more Duece in the later stages of the game when we build a lead. Seemed to abandon Duece after halftime.

4. Mental mistakes. There were some false starts at the beginning of the game, during crucial goal line situations, and during drives that Payton will address. I know that some of the false starts were coming from guards pulling. I just don't want the ghost of Victor (Ignatius) Reilly haunting us all season. There were also some key drops from recievers that Brees will fix during the week with some extra practice.

5. Special Teams. Wow. Our special teams has been huge for us at home. Scoring on block punts and punt returns. This bodes well for the offense. Hopefully getting us some momentum to start drives. I think the Saints were really hurting when they let Bobby April go. They are starting to regain some of that special teams swager that can change a game. Now I get excited every time the punt team comes on the field.

Sean Payton said it best. "We are always trying to get better as a team. It's easier to do when you win. I don't think we've put it all together as a team yet." Which means the Saints are only going to get better. FAITH!!!!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Field of Dreams

I grew up deep in the heart of Kenner, Louisiana in an area called University City where the streets where divided by state names. The neighborhoods had tons of kids who rode bikes everywhere and played in the streets. As the fall of 1986 began my parents and I went to the nearby playground to sign up for Pee-Wee Football. It would be my first ever experience in the realm of tackle football playing for the Wentwood Indians. A profound memory exists today of my time playing Pee-Wee, and it occurred during the first week of practice when our coaches gave us our game jerseys. I sat there in anticipation waiting and wanting only one number.

The coach bustled around in those football coach shorts furiously tossing jerseys as if he had somewhere else he had to be. Since my last name is close to the end of the alphabet I sweated as the names and numbers went by before me. I kept my fingers crossed in the hopes that when my name was called that the number 44 would be accompanied with it. To my dismay 44 was called a McAdams and Norris just in front of my name. You see 44 was the number of my favorite Saint at that time, Dave Waymer. He hailed from Notre Dame which I was also a huge fan of because of my father's affilation/infatuation with the school. Plus he was a hard hitting cornerback that shut down some of the mightiest wide recievers in the league at that time. The number that was now affiliated with me as a Wentwood Indian would be-49. 49? Come on. I didn't want that number. Give me 21 for Dalton, 84 for Eric Martin, 57 for Rickey, or the best would be 3 for the Cajun Cannon.

So I pleaded with others on my team to trade numbers with me and even offered rookie cards of Brett Maxie or my Mel Gray rookie. Nothing doing. Everyone was locked into their numbers. Just then our parents were coming to pick us up. Most of us were excited about the jerseys while others just issued in a low voice, "Got number 19."

That's when my father came walking up with a smile on his face. He was so happy to see me with a jersey. I looked at him with the saddest of eyes pleading with him as if he could magically change the numbers.
"Pop, I got 49." He looked surprised at me and asked what's wrong with 49. He then explained that it happens to be the number of one of the greatest Saints players. I asked who.
"Frank Wattelet!" he affirmed. I suddenly started to take some interest.
"Who's Frank Wattelet?"
"Only one of the best safeties in the league. He pops guys coming over the middle and helps protect Dave Waymer when he gets beat." I started to smile. Then I started repeating the name to myself as if to reassure that this was the right choice. It didn't matter anymore, my pops liked Frank Wattelet and he liked me wearing that number. So from that point on Frank Wattelet became one of my favorite Saints player of all time. He may not have gone to a Pro-Bowl, been named defensive player of the week, or been named on any list other than the Saints starting roster, still everytime the game came on I looked for 49 and followed him with all my attention. Guys like Frank Wattelet fade from our memories from time to time, but for some they hold a special place in their heart because a father found a moment to make his son feel happy again.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reality Bites

Yeah. Yeah. Most of the prognosticators are jumping for joy as they see the Saints fall to 3-1. Me I'm happy too, but for another reason. The Saints are 3-1!! Most people get hung up in the negativity of a loss, but there is no reason to be down about one game. They came mighty close to being 4-0 with a missed field goal and a defensive stop on 3rd down which could have changed the outcome.

So where do we stand? It looks mighty promising as the Saints spend the next few weeks at home against: Tampa Bay, Philly, (Bye), and then the mighty Ravens. Many analyst are going to say the Saints don't have a chance with the second toughest schedule in the league, but I differ. I like our chances over the next few weeks, and especially like our chances against the Ravens if they're still undefeated when they come into town. I'll save that for a later posting, but for now we have some things to address:

1. Our run defense has to tighten up. It looks like whenever we play a team with a dominate wide reciever our safety has to stay out of the box which creates an issue for us stopping other teams running games. We played awesome against Atlanta, but gave up too many big runs against Carolina. This happened with some of their backup lineman in the game.
2. I thought for that for the most part we held Steve Smith in check. You have to play him aggressive and that's what we did.
3. Our offense line needs help shoring up our running game, whether it's an extra tight end or fullback we need to run the ball more. Payton abandoned the running game early on figuring that the passing game was too open to try anything else. I think he realized the importance of a running game in a closely, hard hitting divisional game like this one. You keep pounding it everytime you have a chance in the hopes to wear down the defense to get that big run; like Carolina did in the 4th quarter. Duece McAllister even admitted after the game that the offense wasn't balanced enough. For those that don't understand Duece language he meant to say, "Give me the ball more."
4. Don't sweat Reggie. People are already sweating Reggie Bush because he didn't score again this weekend. Get over it. The kid is being used so many different ways I feel that his biggest contribution to the team sometimes comes as a decoy. Being that said, I still would love to see him come out of the backfield more and catch a pass because their is no linebacker in the league that can catch him. Lastly on the Reggie-wagon. The Saints need to seriously address the way he handles the ball. He has a tendency to hold it out in the open and should have the ball tucked under his arm tightly. This has been something that I noticed in preseason that they kind of addressed, but needs to be brought up again. Doubters don't worry Reggie is going to do great things. Be patient. It's a marathon not a sprint. By the way, anyone trying to match Reggies numbers to Lawrence Malroney or Maruice Drew is just plain stupid. At this point in his career Reggie is not going to be a 25-30 carry back because we have Duece and it keeps him fresh. If you don't understand what I'm talking about think about this. the Saints never drafted Reggie to be the only back they drafted him because he is weapon at so many positions. That's why he will never have the rushing numbers of a running back, but will have the receptions of a receiver.

That's all for analysis. I guess it was good for me to listen to the game on the radio rather than go to a bar and watch. It kind of brings me back to the good old days of the blackout games at home when I used to listen to Henderson and Archie. By the way I will attempt to explain in my next posting why Frank Wattlet is my favortie Saint of all-time.