Saints help dad open door to love of sports
My wife and I have a whole collection of photos and videos of our kids’ “firsts.” There are remembrances of all of their milestone events – their births, arrival from hospital, first baby teeth, first snowball, first baby teeth lost, first days of school, and, my favorites, their first Saints games in the Superdome.
As little New Orleanians, it was their birthright – and a definite listing on our parenting bucket list. Like many, I guess it’s also part of our family’s evolution.
I don’t remember my first Saints game – too young, not too inebriated, wisenheimer. However, Archie Manning was under center, and a hero for us all. My first recollections come from around age six, seeing games against a pre-Joe Montana 49ers team and a heartbreaking tryst against the Minnesota Vikings in which Manning was in purple and gold rather than the beloved black and gold.
As a kid, my grandmother had two season tickets and let me tag along. Lucky for me, it was the in the days of Bum Phillips and Jim Mora. The Saints were competing and winning. Playoffs! Yeah, even we were talking about playoffs. She gave up the tickets when I went to Ole Miss. Even through the Ditka years, I was still in front of the TV every game day wishing the best for our Saints, and had a seat when I was in town. (Wow, remember when you could walk up to the Superdome right before kickoff and get a ticket for face value or less?)
After gaining an appreciation for my fandom, my wife (then girlfriend of three months) bought season tickets for us in 2005. I kid that those tickets got her a ring. Unfortunately, we only got to use our seats in the preseason. Hurricane Katrina evicted the Saints from the Superdome that year. But we were in that number for the games in Tiger Stadium that season, and watched every other one on TV from hotels in Houston before we were able to get back home in October. Our job situations took us to Daytona Beach, Florida, for 11 months in 2006. We kept our tickets, though, flew back for the Domecoming game against the Falcons, and transferred back by Thanksgiving, right in time for the incredible run to the NFC Championship game. In 2009, we were selected in the lottery to buy tickets to the Super Bowl. We bought them thinking we’d flip them, but once in hand we knew we had to go. In a little over 24 hours, we caught a red eye to Miami the morning of the game, went directly to the stadium for pregame activities, watched the unbelievable happen, celebrated all night in South Beach, and caught another red eye back home.
Our children arrived on either side of the Super Bowl win, born into a world where the Saints were at their historic best. The Aints, masked fans, and empty seats were a completely foreign concept. With the entire region locked in on the Saints, their Sundays have been like weekly gatherings of extended family and friends. In the Dome or not, football fan or not, Saints games are cultural events that seem to draw in everyone.
The Saints have a very family friendly policy of letting children 5 and younger in for free as long as they sit on a lap. Afforded a little extra snuggle time with our little ones, we wanted to do our part to share our love of game day with them at a time they could appreciated. Each was well into their toddler years when they made their first game. With Saints-themed dresses and black and gold hair bows, our girls made their first games. Over the years, they’ve begged to join us as often as possible. They each have jerseys personalized with their names, Oyo building blocks of players and a Superdome end zone, and so many Gumbo dolls that their closet sometimes resembles a kennel full of St. Bernards. They love to learn the players’ names and numbers, run the ramps (thank goodness those tunnels are no longer smoke filled and carpeted), and act like they’re “driving” the vehicles in the numerous advertisements around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It helps that their dad is a sports writer, but my girls know just as much, if not more, about the Saints goings on than the boys in their classes at school. That always brings a smile.
My wife reminded me the other day that our youngest won’t get a free pass this year. Although she’ll likely still want to sit on our laps, we’ll have to find two extra tickets going forward. Soon enough though, we’ll have to add two additional season tickets. It will be a great investment.
I’ve loved being able to share my interests and love of sports with my children. I’ve gotten the chance to coach their teams and provide instruction on being a good sport. My favorite times are when they side up next to me while watching a game, usually ducking under an arm to get as close as possible, and answering their queries as they try to grasp an understanding of what’s happening before us.
The sentimentalist in me knows that one day, like me before them, they, too, will go to college, and we might not “need” their seats. That gives me a short window to maximize the time I have to be a positive guiding influence. This Father’s Day, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a dad, a teacher, and a fan. And thank you Saints, for giving us such a great environment in which to do it.
To all of you who have taken the time to share sports with children, enjoy this weekend and have a Happy Father’s Day.