Diehard fans hang tough
Diehard fans hang tough
By Rick Cleveland
Lifelong New Orleans Saints fan Jimmy Hanly will never forget the first time he saw his favorite team play in person back in 1973.
"It was at old Tulane Stadium, a hot, hot day in September," Hanly, a 50-year-old Ridgeland electrician, said. "We were playing the Falcons, and I'll never forget that afternoon as long as I live.
"My daddy and I always had watched the Saints on TV, and he was a true fan. He always made me sit there until the final horn sounded, no matter what," Hanly says.
Understand, dear reader, "no matter what" covers a lot of low ground where the New Orleans Saints are concerned.
"So, we go to the game, and it's so hot everybody's sweating up a storm, and I'm so excited to be there in person. And then the Falcons scored, and then they scored again, and then they just kept scoring.
Brian Albert Broom/The Clarion-Ledger
Longtime Saints fan Cheryl Dunaway of Crystal Springs was one of 10,000 spectators at Saturday's Black and Gold Scrimmage in Jackson.
"My daddy had to stay, of course, until the end. The Falcons beat us 63 to 3."
Well, actually, it was 62-7, but Hanly can be excused the slight discrepancy. For Saints fans, things often seem worse than they are.
'You gotta have faith'
Hanly was one of about 10,000 Saints diehards who came out to Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium to watch the Saints practice and then go through a short scrimmage. Like so many who paid a minimum of $10 to watch a glorified practice in August heat, Hanly embodies the Saints 2005 slogan, perhaps the most appropriate in pro sports history.
The new Saints slogan isn't anything so bodacious as: "Super Bowl here we come."
It's not even: "Who dat think they gonna beat dem Saints."
No, it's simply: "You gotta have faith."
Boy, do you.
Hanly, who grew up in New Orleans, certainly does. Never mind that he's seen the Saints lose many more than he's seen them win. Never mind that the Saints have but one playoff victory to show for 37 previous seasons.
"I'm hooked," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "What can I tell you? My daddy hooked me, and I'm hooked forever."
Archie Hanly, Jimmy's dad, was a railroad yard supervisor for Illinois Central. Sundays were always a huge event at his house.
"We had a huge Italian family, and everybody came over on Sundays to watch the Saints," Hanly said. "We'd have a big pot of spaghetti and every TV on the house was on. We'd turn down the volume on the TVs and listen to Jim Henderson and Archie Manning on the radio.
"Archie and Jim were talking, and Archie and Jimmy were listening," Jimmy Hanly said, chuckling. "My daddy always got a kick out of that."
Jimmy Hanly's best moment as a Saints fan? "When (Az-Zahir) Hakim dropped that ball, and we finally won the playoff game," Hanly answered.
His one regret?
"My daddy died the year before; he didn't live to see it," Hanly said.
The ends of the world
Todd Touchton, a 30-year-old self-described Saints diehard, did see the Saints finally beat the St. Louis Rams 31-28 on Dec. 30, 2000.
"I was stuck in Dallas watching on TV; can you believe that?" Touchton said.
Touchton was so excited, he flew to Minneapolis the next week to watch the Saints play the Vikings in the second round. He didn't have tickets, but he wasn't going to miss the Saints second playoff victory. So, he gladly paid double the face value of tickets outside the Metrodome, went inside and watched his black and gold heroes get trounced 34-16.
Hey, you gotta have faith.
"I know everybody is drinking the Kool-aid in August, but I've never been this excited this time of the year."
Neither has Saints fans Brenda Frye, who drove from La Place, La., to watch Saturday night's proceedings. She wore the jersey of her favorite Saint, kick return specialist Michael Lewis.
Why drive two hours to watch a practice? I mean, faith is nice, but ...
"... Hey it's the Saints," she said. "I go a lot further than this to watch them play. It's stressful when they lose, but when they win, especially an out of town game, it's so exciting."
Frye, like most of the 10,282, stayed until the final play Saturday night ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and why not? This night, the Saints couldn't lose.
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