It provided a good laugh, at the time. And, now seems so ironic.
When the Saints hosted the Steelers December 23rd at the Superdome, a friend from Atlanta was spotted in the press box.
“The Falcons are already dreading the Saints coming to the Super Bowl, and using their facility,” the friend said.
My reply was something like that’s the way it goes.
When the NFC champion comes to New Orleans, they practice at the Saints facility.
It seemed like much ado about nothing.
But, then the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms made her now infamous declaration.
“Anybody but the Saints,” said she of who she would like to see in the Super Bowl.
The honorable mayor said she was just joshing, but it seems like there is real Saints envy in Atlanta.
So, be it.
If the Saints beat the Rams for the NFC championship, Atlanta businesses should be jumping up and down.
A black and gold invasion would also be one of lots of green and lots of plastic. Atlanta would be well, like New Orleans for at least a week.
New Orleans has suffered a lot at the hands of Atlanta.
In the opener at Tulane Stadium in 1973, the Falcons won 62-7.
The next night, I turned on Buddy Diliberto’s From the Press Box show on the local ABC affiliate, and there was Saints coach John North, as Buddy’s live guest.
North took all the heat, and said the Saints would be get better.
They did, finishing with 5 wins in the last 13 games.
Back then, that was real progress.
In 1978, the Saints lost back to back heartbreakers to Atlanta.
In the Superdome, the Hail Mary Pass became part of the national football lexicon when Steve Bartkowski tossed up a prayer in the north end zone at the Superdome.
Alfred Jackson caught it and the Falcons won 20-17.
A few weeks later, a phantom pass interference call in Atlanta on Saints cornerback Maurice Spencer kept the Falcons winning TD drive alive.
Grover Klemmer threw the flag in the end zone, wiping out an interception that would have sealed the game for New Orleans.
Think heartbreak, like LSU at Texas A&M kind of heartbreak.
In the late 70’s the Saints seemed like they were always on the verge of being good, then something crazy would happen against the Falcons.
Saints fans who are old enough to remember such moments, have passed them down to the younger folks in their families.
Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Democratic, Republican … we have a diverse gumbo here in south Louisiana, but most unite around one purpose .. a visceral dislike of the Falcons.
And, that the Mayor of Atlanta feels that way about the Saints is pretty cool.
Seems that Super Bowl collapse of two years ago against the Patriots still stings, as it should.
Since Sean Payton and Drew Brees arrived in 2006, and Steve Gleason blocked that punt on that memorable Monday night, the Saints have won 18 of the last 26 games in the series.
Atlanta has tons more money, tons and tons more Fortune 500 companies.
But, in football, since 2006, New Orleans is just flat out better.
If you don’t think so, just refer to the Mayor of Atlanta’s comments.
Anybody but the Saints she said.
I say, the ultimate compliment.