New Orleans – This is my 20th trip to this city, and it’s the first time I’ve everbeen borne here on an aircraft bearing feathers on its side. Yes, as fate and AirTran would have it, I flew in on Falcons 1.
Now, you’re asking if A.M. Blank flew the plane and Rich McKay served complimentary beverages in first class. (Believe it or not, I wound up in first.) The answer would be no. It was a standard flight with the exception of the paint on the fuselage. And that paint, you should know, was kind of a pain.
Our pilot — I believe he said his name was Capt. Over, though he might have said his name was Ted Striker — announced on boarding that the excessive heat we were experiencing came from having the top of the aircraft painted black. So now you know: Paint your bird a dark hue and you wind up feeling like a basted turkey on Thanksgiving.
Speaking of turkeys: I give the Falcons no chance tonight. I know it’s the NFL, where on any given Sunday/Monday et cetera, and I know the Falcons are pretty good … but I don’t see it happening for them here. Their weaknesses seem to dovetail with Saints strengths.
The Falcons’ pass defense is bad, and the Saints can really throw it. The Falcons’ running game isn’t what it was, and that would seem to undercut the ability to hog the ball and keep Brees and Bush and Colston on the sideline.
And this city, as you’d guess, is wired. Traffic was so bad at 4:15 CST that I paid my cab driver and walked down an Interstate exit ramp to get to the Superdome. “Biggest game of the year,” proclaimed today’s New Orleans Times-Picayune, and I’ve seen firsthand how this place can be on a Monday night.
I was here for the Katrina game — so was U2, and Allen Toussaint and the great Irma Thomas — in September 2006, and the Saints blocked a punt for a touchdown one minute in and the addled Falcons had no chance.
I’m thinking this could be another such night (sans Bono and the Edge). I feel about this game the way Larry Munson felt in November 2002 at Auburn, when he told me an hour before kickoff: “We haven’t got a chance in hell.”
Then again, Munson was wrong that day. And maybe I’ll be wrong tonight. But I seriously doubt it.
Whatever happens, I’ll be here to comment and entertain your thoughts, hopes, fears. Join me early. Join me often. Join me for breakfast at Brennan’s. Bananas Foster for everybody!