Many people are saying that the New Orleans Saints, at least for one weekend, are replacing the Dallas Cowboys as "America’s Team."
How could you not cheer for New Orleans to win the Super Bowl? The city was devastated four years ago by Hurricane Katrina and is still rebuilding. It will probably never truly be the same again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Drew Brees and Co. ride floats down Bourbon Street, hoisting the Super Bowl trophy up high while wearing Mardi Gras beads?
The Indianapolis Colts just won the Super Bowl three years ago. They don’t need another trophy, not as badly as New Orleans needs one. So there is no doubt that more football fans will be cheering for the Saints than the Colts (or the Who) this Sunday.
But not all of the Saints are as likable as Brees, head coach Sean Payton, safety Darren Sharper, and owner Tom Benson. Some of the players, and even one of their most important coaches, are really hard to root for.
While the Indianapolis organization goes about its business in a quiet, unassuming manner, acting like a team that has been to the Super Bowl before, New Orleans is making more noise than the "Jersey Shore" cast.
Which Saints players and coaches are making it rough for neutral fans to root for them? Here is my list:
Meet Rex Ryan Light. Williams isn’t only lighter on the scale than Ryan, but lighter with his mouth. But New Orleans’ defensive coordinator has provided more sound bites in the past week than Lady GaGa has in the past six months.
Williams has made it abundantly clear that he wants his defense to knock Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning around, and he has no qualms about some of the hits happening after Manning has already thrown the ball and started thinking about his next audible.
And just when you thought Williams might back off of his comments, which made him sound like he was advocating his Saints injuring Manning on a dirty tackle, he kept up the comical banter during Media Day and added more fuel to the fire than Satan does when he barbecues in Hell.
If Williams thinks blitzing Manning to death is the way to win, he obviously did not watch the film of the AFC Championship game, where the Jets blitzed every down and Manning eventually ripped them to shreds like a Michael Richards heckler. Manning needed one quarter to adjust to the Jets’ blitzes. Then their No. 1 pass defense was reduced to tears and torched for 377 yards.
New Orleans fans might appreciate their defensive coordinator sounding so over-the-top about defeating Manning, but most other football fans think Williams sounds like a blowhard that deserves the same comeuppance that Ryan eventually received.
Reg seems like a friendly fellow. He appears in Ciara videos, does good deeds for the city of New Orleans, keeps mum for the most part and has a smile that is whiter than Sammy Sosa’s bleached skin. And every once in a while he returns a punt or catches a screen pass and turns it into one of the most exciting plays a football fan could ever witness.
But there are things about Bush that grate on your nerves like Keith Olbermann’s sarcastic rants. Having the annoying Kardashian clan clinging to him is a patience-trier. Watching USC get investigated about some of his shady off-the-field dealings during his time at the school is unnerving.
And then there is the fact that if Bush ever stayed healthy and if he ever lowered his shoulder and ran up the gut once in a blue moon (like he did against Arizona in the playoffs) he could be one of the best running backs in the sport. He was the second pick overall in 2006 and has been in the NFL for four years now, yet is Bush really regarded any higher than guys like New York’s Leon Washington or Houston’s Steve Slaton? This frustrates fans who consider him as overrated or as an underachiever.
You either love or hate Shockey. The middle ground with him is harder to find than talkative Colts. Some admire his passion on the field and the way he runs after the catch, barreling over defensive backs with the style of a battering ram. Some despise his "me first" attitude, his trash talking, his pointing every time he makes a first down, and his reported off-the-field antics.
Shockey has not been a choir boy with New Orleans, but he has toned down his act compared to his years with the New York Giants, where his quotes or pictures were making the back pages of the city’s newspapers on a daily basis. Still, there are plenty of Shockey haters out there that would love to see one of Indy’s linebackers or defensive backs cream Shockey after a catch and send him scurrying to the sidelines.
Personally, these three are not enough to keep me from rooting heartily for New Orleans. The good apples outweigh the bad apples with the Saints. And besides, what is harder to take—Shockey, Bush, and Williams, or another offseason of additional Peyton Manning commercials? But I can definitely understand why many football lovers will be hoping Manning shuts up the Saints on Super Sunday.