Excluding the '72 Dolphins, every team in the NFL loses at least once every season, some much more than others. Every fan at some point has to answer that dreaded five-word question after a loss.
"What happened to your boys?"
Co-workers, friends, sometimes even family, someone will always ask this question after a loss. Some of these people revel in this moment. They just can't seem to wait for you to show up, and as soon as you do the ammo starts flying. A snide smile and a "well, well, well..." and always, without fail:
"What happened to your boys?!?!"
It's like nails on a chalkboard, grating and annoying. The unnecessary salt in the wound of a painful loss. Now, if you find that you are a pompous fan who rubs your teams victories in other peoples faces then maybe it's just karma that you have to deal with this. But when you approach other fans with respect, the "What happened to your boys?!?!" act feels pretty classless.
As a fleur-de-lis wearing member of Who Dat Nation 12 months out of the year I, like many of you, have heard this phrase many, many times since the Saints last win, way back on January 7th. Starting with the 49er playoff loss continuing into the terrible offseason and early 2012 season, "What happened to your boys?!?!" has almost become a running joke.
Living 2,000 miles from New Orleans, I envy the Saints fans who live in the city and the region. In good times and bad, there is a solidarity there. Those who go through the ups and downs with you. Thankfully we all have this site no matter where in the world you are.
The more I've heard the phrase though, the more I've thought about what it really means. When a football fan asks "What happened to your boys?", they are speaking to the overall state of the franchise you follow. As a Saints fan in the Drew Brees era, especially post '09, much is expected of the team nationally. More is expected of the Saints now than at any point in the history of the organization.
Before the arrival of Brees and Payton I rarely heard the question from other fans. Usually just when the Saints lost to a team that was actually much worse than they were. Think about it, who says "What happened to your boys?!?!" to a Cleveland Browns fan? A loss is a foregone conclusion going into most of their games. You'd just be a huge jerk to ask them that question after a loss.
In the case of the Saints when much is expected, much scrutiny will come down upon the fan base when things go wrong. I figure we should worry when people stop asking the question. The times are tough right now and the wins haven't been around for ten months, but I will continue to smile and take the question because they are compliments as much as they are jabs. Those who ask the question know that the Saints are more, much more than they have shown us recently.
Should anyone question whether the Saints know what they're doing, we can point them in the direction of a banner in the Superdome that reads 2009 Super Bowl XLIV Champions. Just three years removed and the principal pieces are still in place in the organization. Unfortunately in the short term some of those pieces have been taken away for some time. Let them have their laughs for now, the Saints and their fans will not soon forget what has happened this young season.
Will the Saints turn things around this season? Who knows really. We've seen stranger things before. The next time someone says "What happened to your boys?!?!" tell them that the team is just letting you all feel like you've got a chance. For now.