We appreciate that, internet. So, as a reward to you, we're doing this obligatory football season outlook post in a quick, but mostly pointless and staged Q and A format. You know just like Obama on Reddit.
Q: What the hell happened?
Many things. So many things, in fact, that it actually does us a bit of a disservice to try and revisit all of them in a meaningful way right now. Besides, most of it is already fading beyond the haze of a Miller Lite soaked week of Isaac hunkering. But just to see to it that we're all sort of in the same place. Here's what we remember.
See back in January there was this football team. A pretty good football team. A football team who had overcome numerous unprecedented perils and hardships such as a re-named stadium, a broken-legged coach, a beefy-mac dilemma, and a freaking terrorist attack to go on and break every record ever in the history of recording things. They even took the time to wrap all that up in little bows for us, which was nice.
Not only that but, as the legend goes, the 2011 Saints were to be granted a clear path to glory once it was determined that Eli Manning and not icy Lambeau Field was all that awaited them in the conference championship game. And then this happened.
And that's only where it begins. About a month and a half later, the skies cracked open and the "Ginger Hammer" (pretty sure that's Drew Magary's term) of justice crashed down upon the grounds at the Saints' facility. A great fissure was opened in the Earth where emerged a legion of demons with which the Saints and their fans have been doing spiritual battle ever since.
All manner of specters have presented themselves. Among them were convicted felon Mike Ornstein's sent mail file, some sort of ledger nobody ever actually saw, Gregg Williams' colorful Powerpoint presentations, Steve Gleason's documentarian's tape recorder, some bongos, Louis Freeh.
The world of legitimate punditry recoiled in horror. Which is to say they tripped over themselves in a rush to type up and widely disperse the NFL's official version of these events. Gregg Easterbrook was a "haughty dipshit" about the whole thing. The Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan spent the entire summer picking fights with the the "illegitimate" media over the credibility of the NFL's "evidence" against Saints coaches and players. We would say the whole of the national sports media decided that the Saints' Superbowl 44 championship was suddenly illegitimate except for the fact that they had already decided that two years ago.
Sean Payton took up various hobbies such as music, dance, divorce, and public speaking. Gregg Williams backpacked through Thailand.
And that's just the stuff we can pull off the top of our heads at the moment. It actually gets weirder than that. Check your nearest novelty T-Shirt shop for clever fashions which summarize the remaining details. The point remains. We are dealing with a lot of shit here, people. Which is why we're happy to be bringing up old shit like actual football for a change. When we watched that playoff video this morning before posting it here, it was almost a relief to go back to that terrible terrible place where we had left off in January.
Q: Sean Payton is kind of a bro, isn't he?
Sadly, yes. We made reference to several of his bro-ish tendencies in our answer above. But just to drive the point home, have a look at this now famous video of a pep talk Payton delivered to the North Texas squad days before they were demolished by LSU.
In addition to the "hey Gru Dog" embarrassment, what really strikes us about this video is just how lame and stupid Payton can sound while talking to a football team. (Three claps for lame and stupid real quick. *Clap Clap Clap*) Payton offers so many lost "uhs" and "ums" throughout his rambling, boring obviously off-the-cuff remarks here, we were half-expecting him to address at least some of this speech to an empty chair. Or maybe, since this is football, he could tell us whether or not it is Halftime In America.
Anyway one also wonders while watching this talk whether and how much Payton was paid for this appearance. Also, if this is, in fact, his usual manner of addressing football teams for money, then will the Saints really be missing all that much during his absence? More on that in a minute.
Q: What the hell is a Pamphilon?
Well, it's not quite a Franzen, and it's not quite a Snape, but.. well
Imagine what it would have been like if, instead of releasing the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg had just whined publicly about how Robert McNamara and LBJ never returned his phone calls anymore while the actual documents weren't published but rather vaguely hinted at in a series of ambiguously sourced news reports.
That's pretty much where this guy comes in. Filmmaker, essayist, poet, producer, and, well, Franzensnape, Sean Pamphilon released a recording he made of Gregg Williams saying stupid things in the Saints' locker room. Later during the summer Pamphilon published a blog post where he went into deep deep detail about how personally affected he was by all of this spiritually.
We don't blame you if you don't feel like reading though Pamphilon's quite robust explication of his delicate feelings in its entirety. Unless you're a fan of the unintentional humor occasioned by the bared soul of the self-obsessed multi-media artist, that is. In which case, knock yourself out. Luckily Mike Florio has tried to cull the actual information from it for you here. And there is some although we think we can save you even more time by shortening the entire thing to this.
"Bountygate" by and large is a bullshit scandal that happens to have caught the Saints in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. Seeking to inoculate itself in the face of litigation by former players, the NFL wants to demonstrate that it cares about "player safety."
But they don't want to do the hard things that entails like shortening an already brutal 20 game (including the just as dangerous fake games) season. Quite to the contrary, the owners continue to look at lengthening the regular season. Or they could make more of a commitment to helping their retirees handle their medical expenses. But that would go too far in the direction of admitting the game itself is inherently violent. Instead, the NFL's strategy is to pretend the problem rests solely with rogue employees (players and coaches) who aren't playing the game the right way.
And so here we have the Saints, whose coaches and management have been on the league's shit list for various unrelated reasons in recent years, sitting right there with at least one guy (Williams) who happened to be just enough of a caricature of a neanderthal football coach to make for perfect scapegoating.
What the Saints appear to have been "guilty" of amounts to little more than locker room grab ass. But Roger Goodell has exerted the full imperial authority of his office to bend that into something more conveniently sinister. And so now the Saints will have to play a season without a coach. Of course the fans are still expected to pay full price for this at the gate. But, as Jeff Duncan might say, they have only themselves to blame for that.
Q: Is there some sort of Robust Digital Alliance that might help us make sense of all this?
Why, yes, as a matter of fact there is! One of the unqualified good things to come out of this ridiculous offseason is it has allowed the Saints-focused blogosphere or "illegitimate media" to really come into its own. In particular the guys behind SaintsWin and Angry Who Dat have done an amazing job of staying a step or two ahead of the Bountygate related bullshit coming out of the league office all summer while the incomparable Wang has continued his usual work of helping us all maintain (relatively) level heads as well as a healthy sense of humor.
But that's not all. We've also become big (or bigger) fans along the way of Who Dat Social Club and the SB Nation affiliated Canal Street Chronicles as well as several others one or more of which we are probably still leaving out of even this extended sentence.
The chatter there, and also, of course, on the Twitter, has provided a populist counterpoint to the naturally more cautious (and in the case of big bloated outlets like ESPN, frankly, compromised) professional media. Don't get us wrong here. Many.. most, really.. of our local pros do outstanding work. Journalists actually do a different type of work than what bloggers do anyway. But the looser and more agile bountygate debunking on the blogs and the twitters provided perhaps this year's most compelling example of what the internet does at its best.
A few weeks ago, WIST radio even recognized this fact and started promoting five of the above-mentioned blogs on their site and in on-air spots. Other than Gambit, WIST is the only traditional media outlet we know of who has recognized local bloggers in quite this fashion.
Q: If Roger Goodell really cared about player safety, would he allow any games to be played with untrained scab referees on the field?
No. He would not. But.. well here we go with that.
Q: Are we still living in the Golden Age of Punting?
Yes. Yes, we are. And Vikings punter Chris Kluwe demonstrates this for us in essay form.
Q: Uh oh, does the kicker suck?
Garrett Hartley will be the Saints' only kicker to start the season. Some of us still aren't so sure he ought to be.
Q: How many running backs is too many?
Well if recent experience is any guide, by about Week 12 or so, there's no such thing as too many running backs. The Saints, this year, have elected to keep five. This is only prudent. Hell they've already burned through about 17 linebackers and the season hasn't even started yet. We are relatively certain all five of these running backs will see some action due to attrition. Keep watching the waiver wire for a potential 6th or 7th guy too just in case.
Q: At what point in the season will some anonymous fan manage to stick a Falcons decal on the punter's helmet in the Gleason statue?
The sooner, the better, really. But we're hoping for before the Falcons visit the Dome at best.
Q: Speaking of Falcons decals, can anybody explain what the hell is going on here?
No. Good God, no. Don't even... just stay the hell away from that thing.
Q: Now can we have our goddamned coach back?
What, because of this? Not very goddamned likely. Nice try, though.
Q: Are football coaches even necessary?
Well that's precisely the thing we're all hoping to find out, isn't it? More to the point, we're all kind of hoping the answer is, no, they aren't. We already know football coaches are basically dicks anyway. They crash motorcycles carrying their much younger employees/girlfriends, they cover up for their child molesting buddies, they go for it on fourth down from their own 30 yard lines in overtime.
Some of these offenses are, perhaps milder than others. Some of them are even strangely amusing, we suppose. But still, is any of them actually necessary to maintaining the essential operations of a football team? Especially when we consider a veteran professional team, we should reasonably conclude that the adult men involved there are talented, well trained, and certainly well compensated enough to be responsible for their own performance.
Besides, it's just football, right? Tackle the man with the ball, hit the dude in front of you, advance in the general direction of the goal line. How hard can that be? We spend so much time reading about how we're supposed to revere this or that "football genius" for devising an impossibly complicated system to achieve the simplest of goals that we're beginning to suspect the whole thing is nothing more than a racket anyway. Why not dispense with such bullshit and just let the players play?
We'd love to let 2012 be the great experiment to test this hypothesis for us. But we're afraid the data here will be corrupted. Instead of just saying fuck it, throwing up a big "Do Your Job" poster or a hologram or something and letting the players run their own game, the Saints insist on filling the empty coach's chair. Twice, even. Given our brief look at each replacement in action this pre-season, we have no idea what to expect from either.
Joe Vitt said some interesting things about osmosis and about "expectancy levels"but he had to go away during the "infantile stages" of the season so that offensive line coach Aaron Kromer could be much less funny for the first six games. We have no idea how to read Kromer right now. But the fact that we're having to figure out any coach at all right now has us discouraged. Instead of a bold experiment in coachlessness, 2012 figures to be merely an exercise in muddling through.
Q: So then what is the expectancy level for this team?
Last week Ralph Malbrough wrote this for WWLTV.com.
The 2012 Saints are Evel Knievel trying to jump his motorcycle over 50 school buses. It’s either the coolest thing you’ll ever see or complete disaster. I’m convinced this season has only two endings for the Saints. A few weeks ago I was thinking maybe 2012 would be a bloody street fight where Drew Brees and the offense drag them to 10-6.
After the San Francisco 49ers ripped the Saints guts out in January and threw them into the worst off-season in the history of football this story can’t have a so-so ending.
Either Drew Brees is getting handed the Lombardi trophy from a suicidal Roger Goodell in the Superdome or by December we just want 2012 to end as quickly as possible so we can put the nightmare behind us.
No middle ground.
Similarly, Saints fullback Jed Collins informs us that Mercedes-Benz' motto "Das Beste oder Nichts” means “the best or nothing" so I guess he's on board with the high stakes thing as well.
We like this theme. We aren't sure it's right but it is very dramatic which makes it fun. We're pretty sure that if the Saints pushed their way through all the insanity to a storybook 11, 12 or 13 wins, Roger Goodell would rule that reversed to 5, 4, or 3 anyway. But Roger has already made things difficult enough as it is. The Saints' offensive talent alone is too much to convince us anything like Malbrough's "complete disaster" is a realistic possibility. But we can definitely see this team struggling to a mediocre record. Since we're not expecting them to get to "Das Beste" we're left to go with the closest we can imagine this team coming to "Nichts" Let's call that 7-9.
But hey look. This should, in no way, be read as us expecting a downer season. On the contrary, we're expecting to have a ball. Because whether the Saints win 2 games or if they win them all, fans are still going to show up week after week to air their many many grievances in their accustomed act of seasonal civic catharsis. Who Dat Social explains this a bit here.
With all the talk about Bountygate fostering an “us against the world” mentality, they don’t understand that in New Orleans there has always been an us against the world mentality.
New Orleans is like that kid who realizes by the third grade that nobody thinks like he does: nobody else likes to eat peanut butter on his cereal, wear flip-flops in winter, read medieval French poetry even though he doesn’t speak French. New Orleans is out there, and always has been. And knows it. And loves it. People from the Crescent City routinely consider themselves New Orleanians first, Americans second, Southerners only by geographical accident (which, however, doesn’t mean we despise Yankees any less than our more Baptist neighbors).
“Us against the world” is almost a synonym for New Orleans.
Regardless of what happens on the field this year, the fans have a good deal to get off their chests. They should have no trouble doing that.
Speaking of civic catharsis, we've been plugging the idea in recent years that, in post-Katrina New Orleans, the New Year actually begins on August 29. It's well established thought now that the four seasons here are Carnival, Festival, Hurricane, and Football.
The 29th falls at or near the emotional barrier between the latter two of those and marks a period of remembrance as well as transition. This year the NOLA New Year was occasioned by an intense exercise in remembrance very near to the point of reliving. Tonight, as we finish typing this the first cool breezes of fall are blowing in outside. Football season begins the new year tomorrow in earnest and we are reminded that whatever gets knocked down by the wind or by the Rog, eventually stands back up again.
Harmony and Prytania December 2005
Harmony and Prytania September 2012