Monday, February 1, 2010

When the Saints Go Marching In

I have been a New Orleans Saints fan ever since Ole Miss star quarterback Archie Manning was drafted by the Saints in the early 1970s. Like a Chicago Cubs fan in baseball, a Saints fan is a person who remains loyal through season after season of football failure.
For years, Archie Manning was the only bright spot in an otherwise bad football team. Some Saints fans were so embarrassed by their team that they began to cover their heads with brown paper grocery sacks, with holes cut out for their eyes to see. The media dubbed them "the Unknown Saints Fan." Still, they came to the games.
John Grisham referred to the losing record of the Saints in his novel, The Pelican Brief. He described a party going on in the French Quarter before the Saints game. Said Grisham, "because there would be nothing to celebrate after the game."
Over the years, some Saints fans believed they had to be God's team with a name like theirs. Others speculated that God was punishing them for using a religious name, and God would never allow them to have a winning team. Either way, fans at the Super Dome often included nuns and priests, and even a fellow dressed like Moses.
Then the team began to win, and Saints fans coined new football terms to celebrate, like "Geaux," "Cha-Ching" and "Who Dat?" "Geaux" is simply the word "Go" spelled with a French flavor. "Cha-Ching" has a story behind it. A New Orleans TV commercial poking fun at expensive fast food restaurants had a teenage clerk saying "cha-ching" as he rang up the wasteful spending of his gullible customers. So when the Saints started winning game after game, the fans started using the term "Cha-Ching" to celebrate them ringing up wins. Later, Saints fans began to boldly chant, "Who Dat Say Gonna Beat Dem Saints?" in defiance of anybody who thought they could beat their beloved team.
Now the irony has come full circle, as the New Orleans Saints have finally made it to the Super Bowl, and the quarterback of the opposing team, the Indianapolis Colts, is Peyton Manning, son of Archie Manning, the long-suffering former quarterback of the Saints.
But whoever wins this year in the Super Bowl, I am reminded of a greater truth for all of the true saints of God: that if you are a believer in Christ, you can remain hopeful and faithful through all your years of suffering, because you know that one day the saints of the Lord truly will go marching in, to win the victory in the Big Game at the end of time. Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number! And because of my faith in Christ, I know I will. Geaux Saints!