Monday, January 25, 2010

New Orleans Saints' Historic Quest: The Sweetest Win on Bourbon Street

What we’ve seen is real, even though it feels like an illusion, given the long-suffering. The New Orleans Saints weren’t always referred to as the Saints, but instead a disgrace in a community where the sport wasn’t the finest attraction.

Doomed with bad karma, Mardi Gras was more exciting than the Saints marching into the Superdome, more convivial than ridiculing the goofy fans for wearing paper bags over their heads to badly humiliate the home team.

The latest carnival is prepared to kickoff tonight and last until the wee hours or mid-morning in a town, where a massive parade is only one win away.

Until then, the biggest win in franchise history is the prelude of a triumphant quest, not only for a starved franchise, but a convinced town that believed and found sanity by applauding the Saints. It has been a season of triumph, finally mitigating doleful images of misfortune.

From the Ain'ts to Saints, a town is thrilled of the black and gold team. The population had clearly waited for New Orleans to bring joy and absolve tragic memories of Hurricane Katarina, a disaster that deprived and battered humanity.

In a town, where delighted fans are attached to the Saints, can fest on gumbo, dance all night in Bourbon Street and brace the Saints. You’ve seen a loud, committed crowd sell out the Superdome and scream. Like hearing an entertaining rock band perform in front of thousands, the mood inside the craziest venue isn’t only insanity, but the guts of genuine fans worshiping the Saints.

The 16-game regular-season meant a season of worthiness, when New Orleans were on the verge of presumably finishing the year unbeaten before suffering a three-game losing streak late in the season. But there’s nothing like finishing off the postseason on a strong note.

It’s well established the Saints removed the ignominious nametag to rename themselves to their original name. The Saints ain’t labeled as the Aints, particularly if you confute of all the poor literature brainwashing our society for all the innovated technology.

But once it all ended on Sunday in the NFC Championship game, the Saints celebrated after clinching its first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. It’s the sweetest win ever, a redemptive victory to break away from all the negativity and doubts.

This is the greatest accomplishment ever, to silence all cynical fans that never believed the Saints would avoid further headaches and painful failures, in which they weren’t seen in the playoff picture.

Besides a hurricane ravaging a community, the Saints brings elation to a despairing town, gracious of an astonishing postseason in the Big Easy. In a spectacular finish, New Orleans revealed its scoring offense ranks No. 1 in the league, including the No. 1 seed in the postseason. And to make a strong statement, the Saints controlled its own fate in overtime to climb over a challenging contest and critical test in the biggest game.

I’ll like to send my best wishes to New Orleans. Why not? It’s their first time appearing on the finest stage, a position every team wishes to be in, a dream every player desires. For a long time, they’ve waited anxiously and witnessed it finally. Nothing this thrilling was imagined in the aftermath of the calamity that, sadly, happened.

But in reality, the Saints punched a ticket to Miami and will travel to the dream vacation spot for a date with the AFC champs Indianapolis Colts on February 7, where The Who will perform at halftime, and where Peyton Manning meets Drew Brees.

“This is for everybody in this city,” Sean Payton said to the crowd. “This stadium used to have holes in it and used to be wet. It’s not wet anymore. This is for the city of New Orleans.”

There’s no point of even dwelling on the miserable losing streak that lasted since 1967. The Saints won 31-28 in the overtime thriller, and suddenly a tense night turned into a party on Bourbon Street. Confetti covered the aisles at the Superdome. Fans screamed to where your eardrums could’ve blown out.

Given the awful history, a rebirth was badly needed to reduce all the nagging bleakness. Late as time dwindled in regulation, it wasn’t easy to watch and nerve-racking Saints fans stared timorous realizing the Minnesota Vikings seemed convincing enough to advance.

If you’ve started taken it for granted, you didn’t understand this was a competitive championship showdown, a game that featured the 40-year old veteran Brett Favre, who hurls passes as if he’s a raw 20-year-old or a player barely entering his prime.

He’s the most prolific passer in NFL postseason history, exploiting the similarities of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, whose record he broke during the game. But individual awards aren’t enough to satisfy Favre. He was craving a title, despite surpassing Montana in the record books.

That isn’t all so enticing to Brett, a future Hall of Famer who strictly came back to prove to Green Bay he wasn’t washed up and win a Super Bowl ring. That was before he tossed a costly interception to Saints defensive back Tracy Porter at the 22. Did Favre throw away the game and ruined his legacy?

No, he played against prolific defense that didn’t relinquish the pass-rush, which remained adequate throughout the game. Favre was harassed, and knocked to the turf. He limped off the field, he grimaced in pain, and was constantly forced out the pocket in which the relentless Saints may have sent Favre into retirement. As times became dramatic and jovial, Favre watched New Orleans implemented a game-winning drive.

“Who Dat”?

It’s the Saints marching into field goal territory. They were brilliant to conserve clock, to save plenty of seconds and rely on special teams to salvage the biggest game in the biggest moment. Sure enough, it went in the favor, when unheard-of kicker Garrett Hartley declared fame for booting a 41-year game-winning field goal.

In the 42-year of existence, it took resiliency and fortitude to overcome adversity and reach a goal, in which the Saints prepared for all season. One win away from a historic accomplishment, and the Saints are celebrating before the important game.

It’s sensible predicting that the Saints will win. If their prolific defense outshined Favre’s Vikings, it’s rational to believe they could do the same to Colts. By putting pressure on Manning, the Saints harassment may frustrate Indianapolis high-powered passing game. Forgetting Brees is like neglecting a vicious predator with large fangs. He beamed and passed for 197 yards with three touchdowns. All the weapons are used to his advantages.

It’s a blessing any time you have a versatile running back in Reggie Bush, who is remarkable and explosive on special teams. It is also a pleasure to play on the same team with receiver Marques Colston. Next there’s Pierre Thomas, a running back with enough stamina and agility to be the next big thing in New Orleans. He found the end zone once, and returned the kickoff to the Saints 40 and had 61 yards on 14 carries.

Even more important, he secured the ball efficiently unlike Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. There’s no doubt he has the speed, but he fumbled twice in a crucial contest. Percy Harvin flew with the Vikings to New Orleans, but was questionable on whether he would start or not. Of course, it didn’t matter.

Sad thing is, this could have been Favre’s final game. If so, he completed 28 of 46 passes with 310 yards and a touchdown. Sure you’ll remember the postseason passing record, but at the same time you’ll remember the interception late in the game.

The relentless Saints ended a surreal run for a battered Favre.

Believe it, the Saints are marching to Super Bowl 44.

The city is shedding tears of joy.

This is the sweetest story written in New Orleans.