When I think of the New Orleans Saints, two things come to mind: the outstanding play of quarterback Archie Manning, nd the really down seasons when the fans came to the Superdome wearing paper bags over their heads.
Recently I completed my salute to Archie Manning - the helmet you see pictured in this blog. Although Archie never was on a championship team, he raised two very famous sons whom have both won Superbowls.
Quoting from the wonderful book "Colors", the chapter on the Saints was written by William D. Taylor. Taylor has this to say about the franchise:
"Living in Louisiana, be it realistic or sterotypical, it always seems politics has its influence on everything, including pro football. After hosting various exhibition games in the 1960's, the City of New Orleans eagerly hoped to get its own franchise.
In 1966 the NFL started talks with the American football League on a merger, but some in Congress felt it would violate anti-trust laws.
Leave it to down-home Louisiana influence, as Senator russell Long and representative Hale Boggs made a deal with commissioner Pete Rozelle where if they got an anti-trust exemption passed through Congress, then New Orleans would get their franchise.
That was accomplished on October 21, 1966 and Dave Dixon, the true brainchild who brought pro football to the crescent city was elated to hear the good news while stasnding outside the Halls of Congress.
On November 1, 1966, "All Saints Day", the announcement was made that New Orleans was the newest member of the NFL. Oil magnate John Mecom, Jr., of Houston, was designated the majority stockholder and president. The team introduced the colors of black and gold, in honor of "black gold", the nickname for oil and a state government income staple through the 1970's.
The Saints made their debut on Septembeer 17, 1967 when rookie John gilliam returned the opening kickoff in franachise history for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams before 80,000 fans at Tulane Stadium.
Later in their history, to the dismay of all Saints fans, 1980 marked the year of "The Aint's". The team lost 14 consecutive games and many of the frustrated faithful attended home games in their own custom uniform. They watched through the cutout eyes of paper grocery bags during the abysmal 1-15 season.
Southern politics and pro football crossed paths again in 1988 when a Super Bowl championship quarterback made a slanderous comment about the Saints helmet logo. during an NBC telecast of a Saints-Raiders game at the Supeerdome, "Broadway" Joe Namath said of the tteam's Fleur-de-lis symbol: "Back in my day, if we had guys playing with flowers on their helmets, we'd laugh 'em out of the league." The next day the Louisiana legislature passed a n on-binding resolution calling for an apology from Namath.
(The Fleur-de-lis or "Flower of the Lily" represents the court of King Louis XIV from the 1600's and was adopted during the French occupation of New Orleans.)
--- In most staates, politics and pro sports franchises make for strange bedfellows. But in Loouisiana, for better or worse, they seem to go together like red beans and rice."