The New Orleans Saints' victory over the Minnesota Vikings last night in the NFC Championship game was entertaining on so many levels.
First, it was absolutely hysterical watching the Vikings literally fumble away a trip to the Super Bowl. Let's not kid ourselves, the Vikings are a helluva football team and their defense was doing a very nice job keeping the Saints and their high-powered offense in check. If not for fumbling on seemingly every offensive play, the Vikings win the game easily. Brett Favre would not have been driving against the clock as time wound down, and probably never throws that stupid interception. All they had to do was hold onto the football, but instead you would have thought they were getting electrocuted if they tried to hold the ball for more than two seconds at a time.
Secondly, watching the absolute pounding the Saints defense put on Brett Favre was a lot of fun and I'm almost certain it led directly to that final interception that was taken straight out of Jay Cutler's Big Book of Stupid Passes (co-authored by Rex Grossman). As a Bears fan, I love defenses that can pound a quarterback into submission like the '85 team could, but in this day and age, it is practically illegal to look at the quarterback funny. Seeing Brett Favre's teammates having to pick him off the ground with a spatula after practically every play was absolutely delightful to me.
People have been wondering aloud on talk radio all day long: Why didn't Brett just tuck the ball and run? He could have picked up a few yards and then they kick the field goal and go to Miami. Why, Brett? Why?
I don't know for sure, but my thought is that he didn't want to get hit again if he could at all help it. He was trying to get that ball downfield into someone else's hands so that they could take the hit for once in the game. Once that mentality took over, all good sense and reasoning went out the window and there he was flinging the ball off-balance and across his body Grossman-like into the middle of the field. That pass was in the air so long, I almost had time to catch a flight to New Orleans and run out onto the field myself to pick it off.
It was particularly sweet to me because I hate the Vikings. I hate the Vikings probably more than any other professional team in sports. The Cardinals piss me off and I despise the belief that their fan base is somehow smarter than everyone else. The White Sox are right there on the hate scale, but the Cubs don't play them enough in games that matter to put them over the top of the Vikings. I have no desire to see Albert Pujols or Mark Buerhle being carried off the field on a stretcher. I can't say that about Brett Favre, Jared Allen, and just about any other Viking from the past or present. I am in awe of Adrian Peterson's skills at running back, but if he blew his knee out, I would probably laugh heartily and not even feel too badly about it.
The Vikings' dreams of a Super Bowl came crashing down around them in a sequence that had to be as bad for a Vikings fan as the 8th inning of Game 6 was to Cubs fans. It was supremely entertaining.
However, the flipside to the Vikings crash and burn, and the lasting joy of the game that will be remembered by me long after the memory of the interception and fumbles fade, is the roar of the New Orleans crowd the moment the ball left Garrett Hartley's foot towards the uprights. He nailed the kick straight down the middle and there was no question that he had the distance. I only watched on television, but the sound had to be deafening in the dome.
As a Cub fan, I don't have many points of reference, but I can only imagine the raw emotion that was set loose in that moment. The hardship that the Saints fanbase has suffered both on and off the field was alleviated in one glorious moment of triumph as they reached a height they had never reached before.
It is moments like last night that keep me watching the Cubs despite the cynicism and fear that they will never have a moment like the Saints had last night. Saints fans had to feel similarly at numerous points in their lives as they sat in the stands with bags over their heads watching a team play something that resembles the game of football, but not quite. They were rewarded for their loyalty and love with at least one night of euphoria before the realization that the quest is not yet complete.
Another future Hall of Fame quarterback with a championship pedigree team surrounding him will await them in Miami. It is slightly Cub-like that Peyton Manning, looming as the potential destroyer if dreams, is the son of the elder statesman and long-time face of the Saints franchise, Archie Manning.
I'll be rooting for the Saints, if for no other reason than to fuel my belief that my own dreams of experiencing a similar euphoria with the Cubs can be possible in my lifetime.