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Point of View

Living with a case of Saints fever

Friday, December 11, 2009
Bruce Fleury

Recent medical research has revealed a startling fact -- watching the New Orleans Saints can be hazardous to your health.

When you consider the stress levels of watching the team flirt with disaster, along with the mass consumption of salty snacks and beer, you have the biological recipe for a stroke. High blood pressure is the least of your worries. It's a wonder that long-term Saints fans are still alive and kicking. In bad times and, now, good, they have spent their lives on the cardiovascular edge.

Take the recent game against the Redskins, a true test of nerves for both players and fans. I'll bet a close examination of local hospital records would show a significant post-game spike in heart palpitations, angina, panic attacks and blown spleens -- to say nothing of the psychological trauma inflicted on our children. My cat wisely spent the second half of the game under the bed.

As the game went from bad to worse, I considered turning off the set, getting off the relentless roller coaster that every Saints fan must learn to ride. Instead, I went into "walk by" mode. That's when you leave the set on with the volume down, and just walk by the room once in a while and peek in.

There are those who feel compelled to watch the worst parts of the game from outside the room, like standing across the street from a burning building. It's just safer that way.

Some Saints fans are pacers, stalking the length of their living room, like Sean Payton on the sidelines, pausing only to holler at the TV set. They, at least, are getting some exercise.

You'd think, having survived Katrina, that we'd be made of sterner stuff. But even those of us who are not hard-core football fans get swept up in the relentless tide.

We scan the list of injuries in The Times-Picayune. We scour Wikipedia to fathom the more arcane rules and regulations. We worry on game day about which team will emerge from the locker room -- the bless-you boys or their evil twins. Should we eat the cheese? Will it give us heartburn?

In my case, the sports gene seemed to have skipped a generation. My dad was a high school athlete, but until last year I had never watched a football game all the way to the end. And then I caught Saints fever.

Saints fever is kind of like swine flu: Once you catch it, you just have to suffer through the symptoms. There is no cure. Watching the last 10 minutes of Saints games has given me a high tolerance for anxiety, along with a taste for the tantalizing promise of redemption.

I blame my son for giving me Saints fever. When Sports Illustrated started turning up in my mailbox, I knew that I had inadvertently raised a sports fan -- a black belt, weight-lifting, soccer-playing sports fan. He watches games in which the Saints aren't even playing.

I never read the Sports section until this year. But now I find myself strangely drawn to it, sucked into the cycle of Monday-morning post-mortem and Saturday speculation. I also got into the habit of reading the Sports page first, so I'd have some Saints news to break the ice with my son at breakfast.

So I wish our boys in black and gold the best of luck. My continued good health may ride on the outcome of their miracle season.

I realized on a recent morning just how serious my condition had become. Driving through Uptown on the way to work, my wife pointed to the block where Drew Brees lives and remarked that the neighbors often see him walking around the neighborhood. My first thought should have been how cool it would be to casually run into him, maybe strike up a conversation and discover that we shared some obscure hobby. Next thing you know, I'd have a hell of a story to tell my son.

No, my first thought was -- should he just be walking around in the open like that? He might slip and fall on the pavement, or get attacked by a rabid squirrel.

Far better that he be kept safely in bed, watching tape and dictating strategy, his every whim tended to by a willing throng of the faithful, his throwing arm gently nestled in a silken sling. And let's hope none of his attendants starts to sneeze.

. . . . . . . .

Bruce E. Fleury lives in New Orleans. He can be reached at bfleury@tulane.edu.



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