Thursday, January 18, 2007

Go Saints Go! Please

So the New Orleans Saints are the talk of the nation.

Who'd have thunk it?

It's the feel good story of the year, the cinderella story of the year, one of the most improbable rags-to-riches sports stories ever played out. It's Rudy, Invincible and the Bad News Bears all rolled into one.

And the nation's press is all over it.  Every paper in the country -- even ones in places like Iowa -- are writing about the Saints. All these sports guys (and yes, they are mostly guys) are writing about how the Saints have hitched the entire city -- heck, the entire region -- onto their backs and taken us all on this incredible ride. The Saints are playing for the battered city, they say.

That's only part of the story.

These Saints -- these GOOD Saints -- also are playing for guys like Rhett Lyons.

Rhett and I grew up watching the Saints on Sundays (rarely Mondays). And we both learned our first curse words on those Holy Days, watching those exasperating Saints, the ones who couldn't hold the ball and who couldn't recover a fumble, at the knee of our Grandpa, Martin Berhman French.  (If you're from New Orleans, I don't even have to explain his name and tell you who he was named for.)

As he grew up, Rhett lived and breathed for the Saints. Every Sunday he would wake up, pull his No. 3 Bobby Hebert jersey out of the closet, stock his refrigerator with Budweiser and try to unplug the phone. But football parties at his house were legendary. And, more often than not, Rhett got to use his own curse words as he suffered along with the Saints.

But oh how he would be rejoicing now.

Oh how he SHOULD be rejoicing now.

But for an unused seat belt on a dark and rainy night on La. 1 in Fourchon, he might be. But he's not.

Since that horrific July of 2001 night, our family has adopted the Saints' Fleur de Lis as our own little emblem. Louella, my sister-in-law, decorated an entire room in black and gold and Fleurs de Lis. She calls it her memory room.

On the day Louelle finally decided to inter my brother's ashes in a tomb in Thibodaux, many of us brought simple mementos to place in the darkness with him. My husband brought a baseball from his inaugural season as head baseball coach at Destrehan. We all firmly believe that Rhett was our Angel in the Outfield that season, which ended with his team finishing as state runner-up. We saw the dragonflies.

Me?  I brought a brand spanking new black hat adorned with only a single Fleur de Lis so that my brother could be a Saints fan forever.

So now the Saints are one victory away from their first ever trip to a Super Bowl, two victories away from the most incredible sports story in the world. But all I can think about is how my beloved brother is missing it. And so is Grandpa.

Or are they?

If there is such a thing as an afterlife, there is no doubt in my mind that Rhett Lyons and Martin French will be hovering around Chicago on Sunday. And, if they get a chance to re-enact a scene from one of the Angels in the Outfield movies and blow a ball or trip a Bear, I'm sure they will.

But they won't be too far away. You see, Rhett's first grandchild, a baby girl to be named Madison Elise Brunet, is going to be born any second now. And wouldn't it be fitting if that little girl enters this world on the same day that the Saints secure their first Super Bowl berth?

That sure would be some serious kharma.

Go Saints!

(And you can visit Rhett's page here --- Remember Rhett)