Oh, How We Danced!

Jan 27, 2010 by

The New Orleans Saints are headed to Miami and Superbowl XLIV. That’s number 44 for those of you who don’t speak Latin. The Saints beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship, in overtime, 31-28 by the grace of the Hartley Redemption, ending forty-four years of “Wait ‘Til Next Year” promises. A joyous Jim Henderson called the kick on WWL Radio, “It’s good… it’s goo-hoo-hood!! Ah-ha-ha!! Pigs have flown… Hell has frozen over… the Saints are on their way to the Superbowl!!”

One fan I spoke to who was at the Dome claimed to have brought a Decibel Meter and recorded a score of 170-175 when Hartley kicked the winning filed goal. That beats last years Superbowl (102 db at the highest point), rock concerts (130-140db), Jet Engines (140-160db) and comes close to the “loudest possible sound” (194db). I would take this with a grain of salt though as 160-170db is reportedly when the ear drum instantly breaks. Fox reported a 102db reading early in the game and I’m guessing at its loudest the Dome neared the 120db level reached when the Saints stopped the Pats on 4th down in the 3Q of our last Monday Night Football appearance late last year.

60 million viewers watched the NFC Championship unfold, the second-highest viewership of an NFC Championship. (01/10/1982 Dallas v San Fran.) Other than Superbowls, it was the second most watched television event since the 1998 series finale of Seinfeld.

Verizon experienced a 300% increase in voice traffic and a 150% increase in texts immediately after the game causing connection issues for over 30 minutes. I have Verizon service and I can confirm that local to local calls were nigh impossible for about 5-10 minutes and out of state calls wouldn’t go through for almost half an hour. For me, both Twitter and Facebook froze necessitating a restart of Firefox.

Voice and data weren’t the only traffic snarls. Automobile traffic from the Westbank slowed to a crawl at the toll plaza essentially creating a one hour trip from the toll to the Tchoupitoulas off-ramp, a trip which usually takes less than a minute. People were hollering and honking the whole way. Some even leapt from their cars to perform Chinese Fire Drills and brief second lines every hundred feet or so. Every car with a sunroof looked like they were carrying kids to the prom.

And the Great Debates have begun, (in fact some started before the game was even over,) about exactly how the Saints emerged victorious when they were arguably outplayed in almost every aspect of the game.

Officiating. Let’s see, there were some very lucky calls that went our way late in regulation play and in overtime, but there were plenty of calls that went the Vikings way early in the game. One play in particular that Vikings fans have mentioned is Pierre Thomas’ 9-yard TD run early in the 3Q. Upon review, Thomas’ knee was indeed down before the ball crossed the goal line, however this would have given the Saints 2nd and inches and three more tries. Of course, they don’t mention that Vikings SS Tyrell Johnson should have been penalized for trying to tackle Pierre by ripping his head off. Also, Vikings coach Brad Childress has a red flag he can throw for a review of suspect plays. He didn’t. Too bad.

Sloppy Football. People have pointed to ‘sloppy’ play by both teams, specifically the Vikings, but that’s not quite true. What some are calling ‘sloppy’ offense by the Vikings was in fact excellent defense by the Saints. Of the six Viking fumbles, four were forced by the Saints. The special teams unit was a machine, grinding out yards on punt and kick returns, (save for one muffed kick return by Reggie Bush,) and keeping the Vikings return men virtually yardless. No, it wasn’t ‘sloppy’ play.

OMF. Let’s call this the Old Man Factor for the sake of any youngsters who may be reading. Those of you pointing to Brett Favre and laughing should hold your tongues. That “Old Man” sliced our secondary in half with 310 yards through the air and until last night was experiencing his best statistical year, ever, through nineteen seasons. Though we didn’t record a sack, Farve On The Ground was the unofficial chant-du-jour and the Saints managed to put him there sixteen times but like the Terminator, he kept getting back up for more. No, I don’t think that the OMF was as big a factor as some say.

The coin flip. Any overtime game is cause to drag out the “Sudden Death rule sucks” argument and a playoff game only heightens the argument on both sides, but here’s the thing… those who cry about Sudden Death when their team loses an OT game are usually the first to say ‘hard-cheese’ when they win one. Opponents of Sudden Death say it’s unfair because the team that gets the ball first almost always wins. This is actually a true statement, but an invalid argument as we shall see.

The SD rules were adopted in 1974 and through the 2003 season, (sorry, it’s the best data I can find,) there have been 365 OT games. In 189 of those games, the team winning the coin toss has won the game (52%) but only 102 of those wins were first possession drives (28%). In 261 OT games both teams had possession at least once (72%)! That sounds like a pretty even system, but few people remember the 1994 rule which moved kickoffs back from the 35 to the 30 yard line. This gives the receiving team 5 fewer yards to drive for a score and in essence makes it easier for the team to reach a position where a field goal will win the game. In the 20 years prior to the rule change slightly more than 25% of the games were won by first possession drives but since then that number has grown to well over 33%. Add in the teams that won the toss and won the game even though both teams touched the ball and that number swells to over 80% and this is the number most SD opponents throw in your face. They simply neglect to tell you that not all of those wins were first possession drives! And remember, the Green Bay Packers won the OT coin toss against Arizona a few weeks ago and lost the game. So much for that argument.

The Reminder. This is a spooky effect that remains as yet inexplicable. It happens when the announcer begins talking about a similar situation from previous games, or when the station puts up a graphic showing statistics from the past then the exact opposite of what’s expected to happen happens. For example, in the 2005/06 Divisional Playoff round versus the Indianapolis Colts, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the game all but won, 21-18, with 1:20 to go and possession near the goal line. Jerome Bettis hadn’t scored in the game and they decided to let him run one in. Suddenly the announcer said something like, “This will be easy. Jerome Bettis never fumbles,” and a graphic popped up on how few goal line fumbles Bettis had in his career. Bettis got the ball and promptly fumbled giving the Colts an opportunity to tie or win the game. (They didn’t.)

The reason I bring this up is that moments before Garrett Hartley’s game-winning field goal, Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman started running their mouths about Hartley’s missed field goal against Tampa Bay as if it were the worst thing that ever happened in professional football. At that moment I knew the Saints would win. The Reminder told me so. Then Donna said he’d redeem himself from that play and it hit me: The Hartley Redemption! The truth is Hartley needed no redemption except in the minds of Buck and Aikman, so in honor of their incredible obtusity I think The Hartley Redemption fits as a redemption for the entire history of the team. For the record, the 40-yard kick was dead center through the pipes and had enough distance and air to be good from at least 60 yards out and it is, for now, the acme of Saints plays. But even though it was a game-winning kick, it wasn’t the game-winning play.

The 12th Man. No, not the crowd, though we certainly did our part, but the Vikings penalty for 12 men on the field late in the 4Q. Without that gaffe the Vikings would have been within kicker Ryan Longwell’s range, granted at the far edge of it, and could have won the game in regulation. Due to the 5-yard penalty, the Vikes were moved from 51 yards out to 56 yards out, forcing Brett Favre to try and make something happen but instead causing him to throw an interception to Tracy Porter. People argue that Favre could have run the ball through an open field for a five to ten yard gain recouping the penalty yards and then some, but they forget that he injured his ankle earlier in the second half. No way he runs there. It had to be a pass. And if Favre retires, again, this will be the fourth time his last pass for a team was an interception, previously doing so for the Falcons, Packers and Jets.

So it’s off to Miami for the Saints and our first Superbowl where we’ll meet the Indianapolis Colts. 25 Colts already have Rings from their SB win three years ago against the Chicago Bears in the very same stadium we’re headed to. That list includes three local heroes; QB Peyton Manning, son of Archie the Great, John Ehret alum WR Reggie Wayne and LSU alum RB Joseph Addai. Local fans are pulling the wool over their own eyes by calling this a win/win situation because New Orleans is represented on both teams. Lie to yourself, not to me. Just because a few Colts are associated with the city does not mean they represent us. On any other sunday you can be forgiven for rooting for those boys, but for the next two weeks they’re the enemy, plain and simple.

True, some of the media is going out of its way to hoist the Colts to the podium before the game even begins, (the Vegas line is bouncing between 5 and 6 points in favor of Indy right now,) but those are the same people who fell off the Saints bandwagon during our three game slide at the end of the season. That’s OK, they’re not from here and they don’t understand how we roll. They’re the ones who think that Mardi Gras is some sort of voodoo ritual and that Jazz Fest is a bunch of old guys sitting around playing Bix Biderbecke tunes. I’m calling this one for the Saints. I don’t know what the score will be, but I’m leaning toward 43 points for the Saints. One for every year we’ve waited.

Footnote Department: Earlier this year the NFL Network mentioned that there are no current players in the NFL named Peter. Unless you translate from the French, Pierre, in which case there are two: Colts WR Pierre Garcon and Saints RB Pierre Thomas, who  both had exceptional seasons this year. And now here they are facing one another in the biggest game of the season. Welcome to Peterbowl I.

This will be the first Superbowl between the two #1 seeded teams since 1993 and the first time ever that two “domed” teams will meet in a Superbowl.

And to the rest of the country, especially you college kids out there, notice how the City of New Orleans didn’t riot or set fire to automobiles and property after our victory. (Police did report an unusually high number of stolen morning papers on Monday though.) We screamed and jumped for joy. We fell to our knees and cried. We pumped our fists in the air. And we danced. Oh, how we danced! We danced in our homes. We danced in the bars and we danced on the bars. We danced in the parking lots and driveways. We danced in the streets and the yards and even on rooftops. We danced wherever we found ourselves and we won’t stop dancing until well after the Saints hoist the Lombardi Trophy high in the air for all the world to see.

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