What If?

3 Jan

Sean Payton, master psychologist.

I know, I already declared this season dead. Why am I here then?

Because everything has changed. All of it.

I wrote about the Saints’ road woes way back on December 21, what seems like an eternity ago:

“The 2013 Saints are, collectively, as much of a headcase as Garrett Hartley has ever been. The roster, even the coaching staff, must simply believe that they suck on the road, that the road owns them. They need help. They need intensive therapy, hypnotherapy, maybe a little electroshock. There has to be a solution to this nonsense that has plagued the team so.”

I stand by that opinion. But I am optimistic – uncautiously so – that the solution has been found.

If you’re reading this you have an internet connection, and so you must be aware of the change in attitude in the locker room as to the disparity in play at home and on the road. Green Gatorade, Popeye’s, new beefy mac recipe, sweatsuits, and the like. It sounds like a big joke. It sounds like Payton having a little fun with the media.

But it’s a big deal.

This week gave us a coordinated effort to demolish the narrative of “Saints can’t win on the road” via sarcasm and a low number of fucks given. It’s typical Payton: address the problem with a subtle combination of “fuck you” and “we got this.” But it’s a change of pace from the other 4 months of this year that the team has spent pretending a problem doesn’t exist.

To be fair, Payton (along with his players) isn’t exactly admitting that there’s a problem. Just the opposite: by joking about it he’s still denying us the satisfaction of a confirmation that the locker room is riddled with headcases.

It may sound silly when I claim that Green Gatorade is the cure, but there is nothing logical about the Road Problem in the first place. It cannot be explained with statistics, or film study, or science. It is the most infuriating quandary. It is an infinite box with no sides. It doesn’t make a goddamn bit of sense, that’s the point I’m trying to get across here. It is, clearly, only in the heads of the coaches and players, and by definition, can only be solved with headgames.

It matters most that they’re on the offensive, even if humorously. Let’s not pretend that denying the existence of the issue is the same as blowing it off with jokes. To do so would be to deny the fundamental difference between a strategy that involves a denial of reality and one that requires open defiance of an acknowledged truth. The takeaway from this week’s media blitz is that Payton, on a singular media relations issue, has dramatically moved from a defensive position to a well-planned, coordinated frontal attack. May we all hope or pray, according to our individual beliefs, that this ultimately serves as a tidy metaphor for the Saints’ onfield performance in Philadelphia.

If this is the therapy this team has needed, that piece of Payton genius that shifts the road game mindset, anything becomes possible. I agreed with many who said last Monday that a road playoff win was our new Superbowl, the ultimate goal at least for now, and I did so from a defensive mindset. I hoped to spare myself the grief of a bigger dream and settle upon something smaller, more obtainable for the team that I obsess over like a psychopath.

I shall follow Payton’s lead. Let’s think a little more aggressively for a moment.

It is entirely possible that this is all a mirage, that the Saints show up a typical 2013 Saints road team in Philly, that they stumble out of the gates and can’t get anything done, that a 20-ish-point performance falls just a little short. I recognize that possibility, but it is none of my concern.

Consider for a moment: a world in which these jokes and superstitions are the solution; in which the Saints suddenly, by virtue of just attacking the narrative, manage to get out of their own heads; in which Philadelphia doesn’t stand a chance and Drew Brees plays like a Hall of Fame quarterback is expected to play against a 32nd-ranked pass defense when it matters most. In that world, Philadelphia isn’t the Superbowl. Philadelphia is only one game, and a rematch with Seattle looms.

Rematch, mind you, in only the vaguest sense of the word, because the team that can go to Philadelphia, face a rabid crowd and below-freezing weather, and take down a very good team in their own house, is not the team that travelled to Seattle a month ago.

I said after the 49ers game that Payton had taught me to love close games. I hated them, always. Still, I’m the most miserable person in the building during a tight 4th quarter. But so many of those games have ended well over the last 8 years, with me saying that I’d never have it any other way, that I’ve learned to calm my emotions during the game by looking forward to the feeling of exhilaration when the win is complete. I’m miserable, but I know that misery is going to make the win sweeter.

I can’t help but wonder, beyond all reason and perhaps sanity, if this year’s playoffs could be an extended version of the Payton close game. We’re miserable now, but what if? What if 4 games isn’t crazy? It is, but what if it isn’t? You and I both know that this season would end with only one possible conclusion: “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

So to hell with all of it, and damn whatever heartbreak may come. Tonight, have some Popeye’s and a little green Gatorade. Tomorrow, drink (if that’s your thing, and maybe if it’s not). Steel yourself for the feared Road Playoff Game. Hide the sharp objects and turn the remote over to someone who is less prone to throw. Prepare yourself for the worst, I beg you.

But if this thing goes well, if Gatorade and chicken and sweatsuits are the intensive treatment this team needed, this season could yet hold some crazy surprises. Like, hell, a green-Gatorade-soaked Sean Payton at MetLife Stadium.

You never fucking know, man. And it sure is fun to dream.

3 Responses to “What If?”

  1. Lisa B January 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    “I’m miserable, but I know that misery is going to make the win sweeter.” – Love this line b/c I have (slowly) begun to hate close games a little less as well. It definitely helps to remind myself that the misery does indeed make the reward that much sweeter.

  2. whybag January 5, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    What can I say, changing Gatorade really helped.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. moosedenied » Blog Archive » Why Do Foles Fall In Lava? - January 4, 2014

    […] the Legits all week with the sweat suits and the Gatorade and the Beefy Mac and all that stuff. AWD wrote in more detail on all this yesterday, and as is typical for AWD, it's a fantastic […]

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