The third preseason game for the New Orleans Saints is almost here, and it is guaranteed to bring various emotions. From overreacting to undervaluing, fans will cling on to every glimpse of the closest resemblance that they will see of their football teams until the regular season kicks off in September. As for the players — the pressure they face has no comparison. Snap counts, roles, and livelihoods start to officially be on the clock for a plethora of players. Roster cuts have been light so far, but this week shapes the wave for more before the September 1st deadline, even with a game to go.
Saturday’s game gives players an opportunity to play alongside the best their team has to offer, even if it’s for one instance. And that one split second could make or break their roster changes. The Saints may not have as many position battles as they’re used to having, but they still have some questions that they would like to be answered. Tonight allows inexperienced players with set roles already to get their first feeling of the intensity of a real NFL contest. The veterans also get their first chances at warming up, Drew Brees and Cam Jordan being the names that immediately come to mind.
Overall, you’re going to see several players on one team, all battling for different reasons, but still with internal success in mind. That type of pressure isn’t for everybody. Depending on the experiences, age, and circumstances of the player, tonight could make the best or the worst out of them. Some players may remain calm under the intense eyes of their coaches, sticking to what’s asked of them, and not try to make every play a home run. Others may be their own worst enemy.
As humans, we sometimes have a tendency to overcompensate in tense situations. We take risks not needed, trusting our ability to manipulate a situation, or simply disregarding the others that are involved. When sometimes —- the best decision is the easiest. Someone, however, will make things harder for themselves tonight. They’ll overcomplicate their setting, and may put themselves against odds and in danger. And as someone who’s done this before, I can relate and understand. And I have a story to back this.
I was born and raised in New Orleans for 13 years, before having to relocate with my mother to the city of Chicago. As amazing as Chicago was, I never could escape my roots, and I refused to. I brought all of NOLA culture with me, from slang to my accent, to the way I dressed. (For example “do-rag’s” are once again being worn outside the house. The last time they were popular I was around, and wearing them proudly. But I used to wear them with the “cape” out. I was clowned in Chicago for this, but it’s truly all I knew.)
Moving along, I never switched my love for my hometown teams. Anyway, I could find a way to watch being over 900 miles away, I would. In high school, I would stream the games online. Once I got a job as an adult, I eventually bought NFL Sunday Ticket. That brings us to a day I’ll never forget in bad judgment just for an opportunity at watching the New Orleans Saints.
The date was October 15th the year was 2015. The Saints were in the midst of another re-tooling, mediocre season at 1-4. In town, however, were the undefeated Atlanta Falcons at 5-0, in a big time Thursday night matchup. Everyone in New Orleans and Atlanta can speak to this: No matter the record or time of year the game is being played, the Saints and Falcons is must-see TV.
My actions would eventually show how “must see” it was. This particular year I hadn’t yet purchased NFL Sunday Ticket, and it didn’t matter with it being a nationally televised game. I still had cable at the time, so I had zero in the way of me finally watching New Orleans live. I was off work the next day and had a bottle of Jack Daniels at home with my name on it.
Upon arriving home, It seemed I had everything I needed until my keys for my apartment were suddenly missing. I checked everywhere, and I couldn’t find them. It was now 6:30 pm central time, and I had about 45 minutes before kickoff. I didn’t have a backup key, nor did I have any emergency entrances. The play was breaking down in front of me.
My landlord couldn’t be reached until the next day, and while having the money, I didn’t want to pay for a locksmith. The easy decision would have been to watch the game at a friends house or go to a bar. I could have called my landlord in the morning, and all would have been safe. But I had just recently locked myself out and was too embarrassed to make a second call to him within two weeks. So I was out of options and running out of time — all over a football game.
You name it. I’ve locked myself out of it. A car, work, my place, your place, or my mom’s place. It’s just always has happened to me. In thinking of ways to get into my apartment I relied on past experiences in being locked out of my car. I could remember calling the police once thinking they would help me. But they politely told me, they only broke into vehicles or homes, if a child was locked inside. And that’s when my night was soon over.
I turned into a terrible actor and called the police in character giving them a story about a two-year-old child named Adrian (I love the Rocky series) that I had mistakenly locked inside. I assumed at this point the police would show up in a squad car, get me in my apartment and I’d be yelling “Who Dat” in no time. Moments later I noticed far away a fire truck and a couple of firefighters jogging my way. I didn’t make anything of it, because, for whatever reason, they’re always around my Apartment complex.
It then dawned on me, “Damn, they’re here for Adrian”. Once they arrive I show them to my apartment, and they immediately break in. I get into the back and assume all is well, my mission was accomplished. But as I get ready to fist-pump I notice the firefighters haven’t left. They’re still in my doorway, waiting for me to present a child. I have nothing for them but another lie. I walk back outside and act like I’m on the phone, hoping that would lead them to leave, and they eventually do. And then that squad car I wanted to originally arrive, finally does.
The cop comes up to me with questions in a concerned manner. So I tell him a mixture of lies, hoping that I can win this one, but with no child to show, I still had a problem. It was now 7:30 I was missing the game, and the police officer was not buying my story. Before I knew it, I was being arrested for what I was assuming was child endangerment. I now had to tell the truth. I told the officer I was just trying to get into my place and there was no child. All I wanted to do was watch the football game. My assumed child endangerment charge was now Class-D Felony and known as falsifying a police report.
I was tightly handcuffed, stuffed into a hard seated backseat, and in more trouble than I needed to be in. My first and only time in Jail was beginning. Everything from my future, my job, and family all felt in jeopardy of being taken away. All because of one football game.
For the sake of the story, however, I wasn’t able to find out that the Saints won in dominating fashion, until close to 24 hours later, when my bail was met at the final minute. I later served a diversionary program and learned many valuable lessons. Making the smart decision would have given me everything I wanted. Even when the play broke down, I still had a read, and I missed it. The players in Saturday’s game will learn some lessons of their own.
Most of it may revolve around decision making. The ones who make bad choices when the pressure arrives may find themselves in dangerous scenarios. Maybe a player who’s not in danger of losing a spot is suddenly on a bubble. Maybe a bubble player is suddenly off of the roster. All because of one football game. The players who make the intelligent decisions should live to fight for another day. If they don’t, a practice squad spot could be available. If that isn’t enough, they may latch onto another team immediately. Just by making the smart and right decisions. And in a nationally televised game, many will be watching.
Week three of the preseason is famously known as the “dress rehearsal” before the real games begin. Saturday will give many the closest opportunity many have been waiting for since January, fans and players alike. We’ll see who can handle the tense moments, and who can persevere after a mistake. We’ll see familiar faces and many determined ones. There will be crossed fingers for all to avoid injury, as well as overtime. Let us all make wise decisions, in the process.