Under most circumstances, I couldn't possibly care less about the NFL. When I read Stewart Mandel's by-the-numbers recitation of the college football media's conventional wisdom a couple of years back, the only sections that stuck in my mind were Mandel's sharp-tongued rejection of the No Fun League and all its works. In those particulars, I agreed with everything Mandel wrote, right down to the punctuation (which I would quote here, if I hadn't misplaced my copy).
I've never had anything like a favorite NFL team. Like most Southerners, having to choose between the Falcons and the Saints was, for most of either franchise's history, kind of like choosing between Cholera or Bubonic Plague. With the exception of one giddy night in Buckhead eleven years ago, I can honestly say that I've never given a for rip my now-hometown team, and even after having lived in Atlanta for nearly a decade, you still couldn't get me to cross the street to watch the Falcons.
The story isn't all that different regarding the New Orleans Saints. Other than being selected as the "designated Saints fan" among a crowd of Americans when we all went to see New Orleans play Oakland in a London exhibition game twenty years ago (I drew the short straw thanks to my living closer to NOLA than anybody else at that time--but the Saints did win), I can't say I've ever followed the Saints, either.
All that said, I loved this piece by my old bud Lein Shory about the Saints, New Orleans, and the late "Buddy D," more formally known as Bernard Diliberto:
It was at LSU, probably while making the drive to New Orleans or back and forth from Birmingham, that I discovered the Buddy "Buddy D" Dilberto radio show. The Saints were terrible at the time, which always makes for better sports radio, and Buddy was leading the charge for the hiring of Mike Ditka. Ditka didn't work out so well, which continued to make for fun listening. I still vividly remember one caller, in absolute agony after another Saints debacle:
"I don't know what to do, Buddy, I don't know what to do," the fan said.
"There's not much you can do," Buddy said, "except go into the bathroom, lift up the lid, and throw up."
My wife and I moved to Kentucky after finishing at LSU, and it wasn't until we moved to Chicago that I found sports radio just as amusing as Buddy D's show. Every once in a while I could somehow pick up AM 870 (I think that was the channel) to get another taste of Buddy, and I was saddened to hear of his death in 2005.
I mourned Buddy D as well. In the days before internet streaming, before satellite radio, and before college football was something other than a one-day affair for ESPN, there were WWL out of New Orleans and WLAC out of Nashville. After dark, those high-powered AM stations were a college football fan's best friend. You could hear LSU or Tennessee games live on Saturday nights, and on the weekdays there were the call-in shows bursting with news and opinion about SEC football.
Buddy D's show, while usually geared more towards the Saints than LSU and the SEC, was still as entertaining as all get out--much more entertaining to me than the Saints games themselves. Buddy's roux-thick NOLA accent cut through the static, and virtually every sentence was punctuated with Buddy's two favorite words--"Da Noorinzaints!"
Sure, for anybody else that would be four words, but from Buddy, and from all the other lunatics down there in the curve of I-10, they were and ever shall be DA NOORLINZAINTS! The first thing I thought when I heard the Saints had won the last playoff game a couple of weeks ago was, "I wish I could hear Buddy D tomorrow."
So for you, Buddy, and for all the long-suffering fans of DA NOORLINZAINTS, my hat is off, and if I were ever to have a rooting interest in a Super Bore--uh, I mean, Bowl, this'll be the time.