Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2000

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / December 30, 2000

Few people anywhere else in the country can truly understand the anguish, disappointment and frustration experienced by the fans of the New Orleans Saints. This year, with another playoff appearance set today, I’m afraid tolook.

Truly, the Saints have made their critics eat crow, blasting back from the Ditka-led 1999 season to their present 10-6 record and back for Round Three against the St. Louis Rams.However, a playoff victory seems to be that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow we can never seem to quite reach. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraidthis time will turn out the same – always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

It’s not like we don’t have the ammunition, the will, the drive and the talent out there on the field. Coach Jim Haslett took a lacklustre team, bolstered itwith some free-agent acquisitions that usually spells “rebuilding year” and turned them into contenders.

And, where the loss of their starting quarterback and running back in back- to-back games would have deep-sixed the Saints in any other year, this time, it seems they have been tempered, steel-like, from adversity and overcome it to succeed better than anyone’s dreams.

Yet…Even if we don’t win another game this year, we already have hopes alive for the 2001 season, once Ricky Williams and Jeff Blake recover from their injuries. Aaron Brooks won’t be allowed to even consider a move (and I’msure his agent is thrilled at the off-season contract negotiations to come), and with big guns on the line like William Roaf (nobody calls him “Meat” anymore) on offense and La’Roi Glover on defense, the team is quite easily the best it’s ever been. Joe Horn is also reeling in the passing yards offBrooks’ arm, Joe Johnson with his rack of sacks was named Comeback Player of the Year, and the team as a whole has given its fans an endless number of thrills.

Likely, the most exciting Saints game in the team’s 34-year history was the Dec. 10 comeback against the San Francisco 49ers, and that could be toppedtoday.

St. Louis knows they can beat the Saints. They think they know how tocontrol our running game, shut down our passing game and generally keep the ball out of our hands. However, two out of three will mean advancement forone team or the other.

Today, we will all see just how good that stacks up.

You notice I’m not talking about the Super Bowl. As far as the coaches andplayers are concerned, they now have a week-to-week season. One loss andtheir season ends. If that ends up on the winning end in Tampa Bay, Haslettthen has the hardest question to face.

“What are you going to do next year?” So I urge everyone to enjoy the game, try not to be too disappointed if the Saints lose, and prepare for a win and all this anguish all over again.

LEONARD GRAY is assistant managing editor for L’Observateur.

Copyright © #Thisyear# Wick Communications, Inc.Best viewed with 4.0 or higher