Musicians talk about their relationship to the Saints on the eve of their preseason home opener.

saints helmet photo

Tonight, the New Orleans Saints open their preseason at home against the Tennessee Titans. Today in The New Orleans Advocate, I talk to musicians about their levels of Saints fandom. Some are indifferent, some are emotionally wracked, some are diehard and will face hostile audiences in other teams’ stadiums to see the Saints. After I filed the story, musicians continued to send me thoughts and comments, so I moved some to here. 

In the story, saxophone player Jason Mingledorff tells part of the story of going to a Saints-Ravens game in Baltimore with John Gros and members of Honey Island Swamp Band. He remembered the crowd being hostile and abusive, then after I’d filed the story, he added: 

We got tickets to the Ravens game from the bar owner, and surrounding season ticket holders were friends of his and went to his bar a lot.  We had people tell us, "We love your band!" before the game and then later yell the most terrible things toward the field and us!

Papa Mali, it turns out, has a personal connection to the Saints:

Since 2002, my wife Michelle has worked full-time as a paralegal for attorney Chip Brees, Drew's dad. Up until a few years ago, this meant us living in Austin, where his practice is based. When we moved to New Orleans, she was able to keep her job and work remotely via Skype, email and iPhone. God bless technology.  

We were vaguely aware that Drew had played for Westlake High and Purdue, but didn't follow sports closely enough to really know much more than the boss' son had a promising future as a quarterback.  When he was playing for San Diego, we began to take notice. 

Then came the injury, the long, near-miraculous recovery and the incredulous news that he would be playing for the Saints. Then we were really paying attention. Having grown up in Louisiana, they are the only team that I have ever followed or cared about. When they started winning, we became born again football fanatics.

Papa Mali, his wife Michelle, and Chip BreesPapa Mali, his wife Michelle, and Chip Brees photo

Singer Debbie Davis had an interesting take:

I find that I almost always have a gig during Saints games. This used to bum me out until I realized A) I love New Orleans but don't give a tinker’s damn about football and B) most tourists feel the same way. Because of this, my gigs on game night are generally full of out-of-towners who would rather spend their money on music. My kind of people.

Most of the people who responded late had similarly mixed-at-best feelings about the Saints, which might explain why they didn’t respond more quickly. Children’s artist Johnette Downing wrote:

I once was a fan, and as a New Orleanian, I appreciate when the team does something to promote our city and our cultural heritage in a positive way. However, when teachers, first responders, librarians, and artists make as much money as men chasing a ball around a field, I'll be more enthusiastic.

For George Porter Jr., game day is a time for rest:

I am not a sports fan but in my house my wife loves her Saints so while she watches I get to take a nap. Same thing on the road my band will go out in search of a place to watch the game and I get to stay in my room and nap. So I often get  a chance for some extra rest during the season and for that reason I really like our boys in black and gold.

Alex McMurray checked in fairly quickly with a response that others echoed to some degree:

Since i love the city, a certain devotion to the Saints is required, but with each year my distaste for the NFL and its hegemony in the culture grows more and more. So i'm ambivalent. That being said, I used to turn on the game on a Sunday, but then they started with digital broadcasting and the digital antenna sucked and it was a chore to watch, so I just quit. I had season tickets a few times back in the day.

Hostility toward the NFL and its inescapability is very understandable. As much of a fan as I am, there comes a point mid-season where I really focus my non-game day Saints intake because it seems like there’s more to talk about than football. I didn’t feel that way when I was less hostile toward the NFL, which each year makes the business values that really drive the whole show a little more obvious, making the game narrative harder to emotionally invest in.

BeauSoleil’s David Doucet is the voice of the long-suffering Saints fan in my story, and here’s more of his notes on his fandom:

I don't worry about LSU as much as I worry about the Saints because I trust the Tigers not to make asses of themselves. On the road, if the van has XM or Sirius radio, then we all listen, and every year I buy NFL Mobile just in case. My most frequent text home is: “What ARE they doing?” No game is ever really won until the clock says: 00:00. 

At home I cook, preferably something that takes a lot of stirring. I stand and stir. And then I stand in front of the TV. I usually watch alone because of the time I drank four bottles of wine during an abysmal performance. Ever since then, my wife won't watch with me. 

Melissa Weber, better known as DJ Soul Sister, has two Saints-related superstitions: 

I don't watch the games because I feel like if I do, I'll jinx them into losing. I don't know where that  comes from. Also, if I don't play James Brown's 1974 version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" on my WWOZ show on the Saturday before a game, I feel like it makes them lose. But if I play it, it will make them win. So I tend to play the song every Saturday during the football season.

I used to be superstitious, but the Ditka years broke me of that. I realized that there was no relationship between my gametime food, drink, seat choice, and cup and the defense’s inability to tackle. No amount of gesturing to my own Saints shrine could compensate for Ditka’s sad game plan, ill-chosen players, and foolish ego. That said, I always have a glass of milk in my Saints glass on game day, I wear the jerseys of former Saints during pre-season games and one player on the current roster during the season, and I only wear my high-topped Saints Converse on game day. So maybe I’m not that over my superstitions, but I used to have more.

Bonerama’s Craig Klein would rather gig than watch football, and like many of the musicians I talked to, his fandom such as it is has more to do with connections—the city and his family. When he watches, though

I will scream and throw stuff at the TV and get excited when they win, I learned that from my dad and his brothers. Hey, a win for the Saints feels like a win for the whole city, which means more gigs for some reason. Win!!