No one has any trouble remembering the great moments in Saints history. For instance, there was the time when...uh, yeah. Well, then there was...hmmm. Or...
Remembering the bad moments is easier. Sometimes, the bad and the outrageous combine to create a perfect storm of memorable awfulness. It's curious that one particular play should stand out among all the rest; but the play I'm thinking of was, for a long time, the worst decision I'd ever seen an officiating crew make on the field. And of course, it went against us.
The scene: the Superdome, opening day, September 4th, 1988. The Saints are coming off a 12-3 season, the 49ers a 13-2 season, and they meet in CBS's game of the week. The Saints lead at halftime, 17-10; but in typical fashion, they let Joe Montana pass for three third-quarter touchdowns. Then, in atypical fashion, they battle back. Bobby Hebert hits Lonzell Hill on an 18-yard score early in the fourth—his third of four TDs on the day—and we're within a score at 31-24. Then the Saints get the ball back, and drive down to the 49er's 18-yard line.
That's when it happened.
Hebert's next pass was tipped high in the air, and San Francisco nose tackle Michael Carter caught it inside the 10. Thing is, Carter was rushing toward the Saints' goal...and he continued rumbling, stumbling, bumbling and dodging until he got into the end zone. And was promptly tackled.
It was obvious to everyone in the room (me and my wife) that Carter was simply trying to con the refs into a touchback. It was equally obvious that your momentum doesn't really carry you ten yards when you're running around people. But the refs didn't see it that way...they gave San Francisco the ball, and through the intervention of God Himself and all His angels, my television screen survived. The Saints didn't, though. They managed to score another touchdown, plus a safety; but Mike Cofer kicked one more measley field goal, and that was all the 49ers needed. San Francisco 34, New Orleans 33.
And here's the kicker: we both ended up 10-6 that year, tied with Los Angeles for the division crown. The 49ers won it on a tie-breaker; the Rams got a wild card; and the Saints got the shaft. In large part because of the worst call I'd ever seen a referee make up to that point.
Gosh, that was cathartic. I feel so much better now that I've dredged all that old pain and anger and frustrated, helpless, hopeless rage back up to the surface. Join with me, now: sit in this circle, clasp hands, and sing Kum-ba-F'ING-ya! And share your favorite (not) memories.