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JOESAM2002 12-22-2003 12:08 PM

Saints fans ponder........

Saints fans ponder if there's a curse
10:22 AM CST on Monday, December 22, 2003

Associated Press

The New Orleans Saints' juggling, multi-lateral 75-yard touchdown Sunday -- only to narrowly lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars on a botched extra point -- left this city's die-hard fans stumbling for answers, and facing the specter of the voodoo curse.

The Saints' final play was immediately compared to California's 1982 five-lateral kickoff return into the Stanford marching band that gave California the win.

But enter the curse: With the score at 20-19, 14-year veteran kicker John Carney misses the extra point.

Game over. And Saints fan watching the game back home on television were left with their playoff hopes dashed.

"I'm heart broken," said Cat Fleuriet, a self-described Saints "nut."

"I think this will be a highlight clip they will be using forever and ever, and every time they play it I think it will hurt because the end result wasn't a win to bring us to the next level," said Fleuriet, a beloved fan known for her bleached-blonde hair, halo, umbrella and front-row dances in the Superdome. She is also an inductee into the Saints fans' hall of fame.

After the loss, calls poured into sports talk radio host Buddy Diliberto, better known as "Buddy D."

And again and again the subject of the curse came up.

A myth surrounds the Saints franchise that the team is jinxed because the Superdome was built on top of a cemetery.

"I don't believe it's a jinx, but I can understand this -- for the people who wonder, I can understand why they wonder," Diliberto said.

But many die-hard fans refused to give in to the idea that the Saints -- often dubbed the Aints -- are cursed.

"They never have anything better to talk about, they have to blame someone or something," Fleuriet said about the disbelievers.

"There's not a curse," said Bob DelGiorno Jr., a lifelong Saints fan and host of the "Fan Addicts" show on WWL Radio. "If they stick with Jim Haslett, Aaron Brooks, Deuce McAllister and all the other good players, and if the community stays behind Mr. (Tom) Benson (the Saints owner), then I truly believe the Super Bowl could be ours within the next couple of years."

DelGiorno added: "As a little caveat, to be honest, I think the kicker needs to go. He's cursed."

Fleuriet is a believer -- she's waiting for the day when the Saints win the Super Bowl.

"It'd feel like Mardi Gras a hundred times over how this city would go wild, and I'd have to be in a parade, I'd have to lead a parade," she said. "Oh yeah, it would be wild."

Curse or no curse, fans were thrilled by the lateral play.

It was already being dubbed "The Play" by fans on Internet message boards and radio shows on Sunday, according to Mick Snyder, a 31-year-old fan who was watching the game with his wife at home in Vidalia.

"When they walked out there to kick the extra point, I had a bad feeling," Snyder said. "I said, 'Don't miss it, and sure enough, he shanked it.

"I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, all in a matter of seconds."

Diliberto said: "In 37 years I've never seen anything like it and I thought I had seen it all in regards to the Saints. This is the first time where a team had the miracle play and the team didn't win."

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