|Wednesday, December 27, 2000|
Saints fans long-suffering, but loyal
NEW ORLEANS -- In the New Orleans Saints' Hall of Fame are
tributes to players, memorabilia of Tom Dempsey's record-setting
field goal, and one of the original paper bags shamefaced fans once
wore to games.
The Saints, one of the worst teams in NFL history, with a hall
of fame? The Saints, a team with just six winning seasons,
including this one, in 34 years? A team that qualified for the
playoffs only five times, including this season?
"The Saints aren't a team a lot of people would associate with
a hall of fame," said Ken Trahan, general manager of the facility.
"But New Orleans fans have had a longtime love affair with the
The Saints' hall of fame is 3,500 square feet, except for four
months of the year when an atrium area is used for displays that
boost it to 7,500. Either way, it's much smaller than the Green Bay
Packers' 20,000-square-foot building - the only other team-operated
That's not the only difference. The Packers' hall, opened in
1976 with tributes to coach Vince Lombardi and three Super Bowl
championship teams, averages about 50,000 visitors per year. The
facility in New Orleans, opened in 1988, draws 21,000 annually
without offering so much glory.
"It's amazing how much feeling people have for this team,"
Trahan said. "We celebrate that feeling, with all its ups and
There are busts of Archie Manning and Ricky Jackson, the
original shoe Dempsey wore and the ball he kicked 63 yards to set
an NFL record in 1969. The $7 million agreement signed by John
Mecom when he purchased the expansion franchise in 1967 also is on
And there's the football John Gilliam caught on the opening
kickoff of the first game the Saints played and returned 94 yards
for a touchdown.
It took 20 years after that run, however, for the Saints to
record their first winning season, which explains why the timeline
depicting Saints history is divided into decades labeled - "When
the Saints go Marching In," "When the sun Refused to Shine," and
the third, "Lord, I want to be in that Number."
"You've got to admit that we have more unique things in this
hall than most halls of fame," said Joe Washington, 67, who visits
each year with his grandchildren. "I don't think we'd have
survived this if we hadn't had some laughs along the way."
There are pictures of Ricky Williams running and wearing a
wedding dress. shots of former quarterback Jim Everett on the
field, and attacking sportscaster Jim Rome.
There are pictures of the elaborate halftime shows the Saints
used to stage, ostrich races and parachute landings. The shows
ended after a cannon blast blew off the hand of a participant.
There is an exhibit holding the first kicking shoe Morten
Andersen wore. It shows little wear because Andersen hated it and
wore it for just one game.
In the Saints' hall you can learn about the "World's longest
Boo." The sound of disgust was so loud that the New Orleans
offense couldn't hear the signals and became one of the few
home-teams - if not the only one - to get a delay of game penalty
because their fans wouldn't quiet down when they had the ball.
Perhaps the most popular display, however, is a simple white bag
with eye holes cut in it, a gold tear drop below one, and the word
"Aints" written across the top.
The bag was designed by a local bartender in 1980, when the
Saints were going 1-15. It was designed to let diehards attend the
game without the shame of being recognized
"People are amazed that we have it on display," Trahan said.
"But it's part of the history of the team."
Also memorialized are the Saints' previous playoff trips, four
games that capped the best seasons in franchise history with
bitterness as New Orleans lost in the first round each time. Trahan
will update the display after the Saints play the Rams on Saturday
in the wild-card game. He hopes it will be a new theme.
"It would be really great to be able to add the first
postseason win to the hall," Trahan said. "A lot of people
haven't believed they'd live long enough to see it. Let's hope we
get it Saturday."
|Saints fans no longer wear paper bags over their heads.|
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