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Cursed Sports Cities in America-New Orleans

Yes, I know the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009.  But as I said in my Indianapolis blog, sometimes one championship isn’t enough to hit the heartbreak.  The Saints ever since winning have had numerous gut-punches to them in games, notably the playoffs, which I will detail later.

New Orleans is one of those towns where crazy things happen.  We associate the town to a lot of things, from the Mardi Gras celebrations, Bourbon Street to unfortunately Katrina, to the unique blend of French and American put together as well as the whole voodoo vibe.  It is one of the most unique towns in the country and a great town.

I’ve made it clear I’m a Falcons fan on here more than a few times.  And while the rivalry between the Falcons and Saints may not be as front page as Eagles/Giants, Broncos/Raiders, Packers/Bears, it is a hated rivalry on both ends.  Saints fans love conjuring that 28-3 choke by Atlanta in the Super Bowl (as they seem to be more obsessed with it than the Patriots fans, which their team who came back on Atlanta, which to me is odd but whatever).  Atlanta fans had fun throwing out memes on the Saints when they blew the game with 10 seconds left to Minnesota this past year.  Parting shots get taken on the local media (as one Atlanta sports personality calls New Orleans “Stinkytown” and nickname the Saints the Swamp People).  It’s fun overall and with the Falcons and Saints being at the top of their games right now.  But I’ve gone off-topic as I’m trying to say being down for a Saints game, I appreciate the fans of the city as it is a great sports town, as I guess you can say I’m an enemy of that town.

But, it does not excuse New Orleans from not being cursed.

I mentioned the Saints in recent years since their Super Bowl win have gotten more than a few gut-punches, but also New Orleans has not had much luck with their basketball team(s), as they’ve lost one through relocation and then the one they have inherited have gotten a few punches to the gut themselves so let’s look at one of the more underrated sports towns, and I relatively cursed sports town with it.

NEW ORLEANS: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS/PELICANS, NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (PREVIOUS)

RESUME: 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (2009-SAINTS); DROUGHT OF 9 YEARS

Beast

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1 SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP):  Again, it is admittedly a debate New Orleans is here for the fact of their Super Bowl title in 2009.  While that should eliminate them from being cursed, some fans (and mostly Minnesota fans) believe that the Saints were “handed” the NFC Championship that year for a couple of reasons: first one was the Saints were rumored to have been trying to take players out of the game (perhaps Brett Favre) and two Favre’s big-time blunder of throwing across his body late when the Vikings were already in field goal territory and Tracy Porter picking it off to keep the Vikings from scoring and the Saints would win it.

It may have ended their 42-year run of misery at that point as the Saints from its inception through really the aftermath of Katrina in 2006 had been one of the bottom-feeders.  Even their playoff runs were disappointments (91 vs. Atlanta, 92 vs. Philadelphia as both were home games; 2000 playoffs in Minnesota, blowing a nice chance in 2002 to get to the playoffs, etc.).  However, since the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, they’ve endured some pretty bad heartbreaks in the Bayou.

The reason why the Saints have been near the forefront of the NFC since 2006 and why they have a Super Bowl title is really because of one man: Drew Brees.  To me, he is the best passing QB in NFL history, over Dan Marino and he is also one of the fearless, toughest quarterbacks to play.  He will keep the Saints in every game possible to win, even if New Orleans has issues such as the defense over the times.  But since the Saints are always considered a tough out because of him, it doesn’t ease the fact New Orleans has seen its share of heartbreaks with Brees.

I’m really going to start past the 2009 season on New Orleans.  The Saints didn’t really fall into that category as they went 11-5 in 2010, but had lost out to Atlanta for the divisional title, thanks to an early home loss to the Falcons where the reliable Garrett Hartley missed an easy chip shot to win it in regulation while Matt Bryant buried one from 46 yards out in overtime to give the Falcons a win in the Superdome.  It would play large as the Saints (though beating the Falcons near the end of the season in Atlanta) would have to travel on the road in the playoffs to the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks.  Many slated New Orleans would have no problem against the “won-it-by-default” Seattle team.  And while at times in the first half it looked like New Orleans would run away with it, the Saints defense kept on allowing Seattle to get back into it and Seattle would make couple of key stops on the offense which gave the Seahawks a 24-20 lead at half time.  Seattle tried to be the team running away with it after a key touchdown and a FG in the third making it 34-20.  After the Saints came back Seattle was more than willing to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch.  And the Saints had NO answers for Lynch.  In late in the game the Saints had the right defense in to stop Lynch, but to no avail as Lynch broke 8 tackles to scamper in from 67 yards, thus creating an actual small earthquake in Seattle and also giving Lynch the name of Beast Mode with that run.  The Saints would be bounced out.

Davis

The year after in 2011, Brees and the Saints re-claimed the division title at 13-3 but because of losing tiebreaks to San Francisco and also 2 behind 15-1 Green Bay they did not get the bye.  The Saints offense was a record breaking one as Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s passing yards record with 5,476 and Darren Sproles broke the record for all-purpose yards, it was the offensive juggernaut in football.  After a shootout win over Detroit in the Wild Card, the Saints traveled to San Francisco for their divisional tilt.  Many thought despite the 49ers having a young team, the Saints would win.  The game went back and forth as times the Saints took advantage of the young Niners defense and others the Niners would actually get enough offense from Alex Smith to take it to the Saints defense.  The Saints were up 32-28 after a Brees TD pass to tight end Jimmy Graham with 1 minute 37 seconds left.  However, San Francisco drove down the field like clockwork (which most teams really started to do on New Orleans from 2010-2016) and Alex Smith connected to Vernon Davis in the end zone with 9 seconds left in the game to give the 49ers the win and advance to the NFC Championship

Then after that season, BountyGate took place as the Saints were investigated by the NFL for the defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offering bounties to take notably quarterbacks out of the game, notably Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matt Hasselbeck, and Josh Freeman.  The Saints denied it though evidently the NFL found emails of Williams and Payton knowing about it and Payton covering it up.  Saints fans screamed foul that there wasn’t any evidence about it.  However controversy continued as many said Williams did similar things in Tennessee and Washington.  But the end result was Payton was suspended for the 2012 season, GM Mickey Loomis was suspsended for half of the season for not telling the Saints to drop the bounties, linebacker and team captain Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the season, and DE Will Smith was suspended for four games.  It took a hit on New Orleans with the 2012 season, failing to make the playoffs.

In 2013 the Saints went 11-5 but again was in 2nd place, this time to Carolina.  After a road win in the playoffs, New Orleans went to Seattle in the Divsional round and despite the score being 23-15, it really felt like the Saints were outplayed by the Seahawks this time as they were shut out for the first 3 quarters of the game thanks to Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense.

The last 3 years before 2017, the Saints had a familiar vibe to them: great offense led by Brees, terrible defense.  End results of those three years? 7-9.

Meme

Last season was one that had a feel reminiscent to the Super Bowl Saints team.  Brees had weapons galore and had a strong running game with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara while the defense stepped up with the likes of Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore.  The Saints went 11-5, fended off hated rivals of Carolina and Atlanta and won the South.  After a first round W against the Panthers in a nail-biter where Carolina nearly came back to stun them, the Saints traveled to Minnesota for the Divisional round.  The Saints struggled in the first half to Minnesota’s defense, unable to score any points.  However, the second half arrived and New Orleans started to do what they normally do on offense with Brees and that score at will (and they scored 24 in the 2nd half alone).  However, the Saints defense was becoming more and more reminiscent of those Swiss cheese defenses prior and unable to stop Case Keenum from moving the ball around.  After the Saints got a FG from Will Lutz with 43 seconds left, many thought it would be near impossible for the Vikings to get into field goal territory.  And even Sean Payton was mocking Minnesota’s fans with the Skol clap thinking it was over.  However with 10 seconds left and on Minnesota’s own 39, Keenum threw a deep pass to Stefon Diggs, who was not tackled by corner Marcus Wiliams (who went for the shoulder tackle to take him out of bounds) and missed, ran it in with no time left to give Minnesota the miracle win.  Of course, the internet had fun with the memes on the Saints, notably Williams (for his poor tackling) and Payton (for his arrogance to the Viking fans after New Orleans took the late lead and for a few other instances during the season, notably for their rivals of the Falcons and Panthers).  So New Orleans, despite that Super Bowl, have had some crazy things happen to them thus ending in heartbreak over the years.

CURSED MOVE: Really, and I’m looking at post-2006 Saints here, the roster moves haven’t been too terrible, it probably has to be getting Jairus Byrd.  Byrd was one of the best safeties in the game in Buffalo and Saints fans had hoped he would be that stud for the defense.  However, Byrd was lost after 4 games in the 2014 season (his first) and many thought he was never the same player in New Orleans after that.

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  The Minnesota Miracle.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong on that play.  Why on earth would Sean Payton actually care about the Minnesota fans enough to mock the Skol chant as the game was still going on (that was an omen right there) and then you have your rookie safety, who had a great year to that point, make probably the most fundamentally challenged tries of tackling ever.  Honorable mentions will go to the Beast Quake and the Vernon Davis TD pass.

CURSED RATING: 2/5 (SOMEWHAT CURSED-New Orleans DOES have a Super Bowl within 10 years, but I’m beginning to think somebody down on Bourbon Street may have made a deal with a powerful voodoo doctor in 2009 to make a deal saying they would get the Saints to win the Super Bowl that year and then the rest of the years suffer after; we can kind of go back and look at everything New Orleans had happen to them pre-2006 and go, yeah, they were definitely cursed, but that Super Bowl win really knocked out a lot of the mess so I really don’t look at that part, though it could still factor in, similar to the Colts before they won their Super Bowl). 

Hornets

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS/HORNETS, NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (0 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS):

New Orleans

I’ll start with the previous resident of New Orleans, the Jazz. I’ll sum it up pretty brief: the Jazz brought Pete Maravich back to his home state in Louisiana.  He played great, but the Jazz were a true expansion team and never made it to the Playoffs, even with Pistol there.  And on top of it, Maravich’s knee problems kept him from playing a full season.  The venues were also subpar for the Jazz as the first season they played in two venues, the Municipal Auditorium and Loyola Field House, where players faced the chances of falling into the stands from the court.  The Jazz moved to the Superdome, but the venue is too large for basketball and it seemed like something was always going on in there as the Jazz were an afterthought.  And the team moved out of New Orleans after the 1979 season.

New Orleans would get the Hornets from Charlotte after the 2002 season after George Shinn wanted a new arena to replace the Charlotte Coliseum, which was declining in attendance.  When Charlotte refused, he looked elsewhere, first to Memphis where the Grizzlies had beaten the Hornets out of that spot and then to New Orleans.  In the first two seasons New Orleans made the playoffs with the tandem of Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn.  However, the Hornets moved out to the Western Conference as their closest teams were in Texas, Memphis, (and later) Oklahoma City as opposed to Atlanta, Orlando, and Washington.  The adjustment was rough as the West was far more competitive than the East and Baron Davis had been traded earlier in the season to Golden State.  The Hornets went 18-64 in 2004-05, however was fortunate to get a point guard in Chris Paul in the draft.

Unfortunately, life and mother nature stunted the Hornets for the next few years as Hurricane Katrina happened.  For the next two seasons the Hornets split time in Oklahoma City and a rebuilding New Orleans and failed to make the playoffs (though bringing in Paul started to make them a threat again).  When the Hornets returned permanently, they finished the 2007-08 season at 56-26, their best since moving and while the Saints got a lot of deserved praise when they came back to New Orleans post-Katrina, the Hornets got fans excited too.  With Paul, David West was a key player while they had shooter Peja Stojakovic and defensive big man Tyson Chandler that was a legit threat in the West. They got to the semi-finals against the defending champion Spurs and had the golden opportunity to take out San Antonio in the 7th game at home, but the experience of the Spurs and the struggles of Peja shooting the ball and Paul really unable to take that game over, ended the Hornets chances.  The next year New Orleans got back to the playoffs but fell in the first round to Denver.  After an injury riddled year to Paul in 09-10 where New Orleans didn’t make the playoffs, they returned once more the year after, but bounced in the first round again.

After the 2010-2011 season, the fear of Paul leaving in a similar fashion to how Carmelo Anthony leaving Denver and Deron Williams leaving Utah, was high.  It sounded like Paul was not going to stay in New Orleans much longer.  First the Hornets tried to trade him to the Lakers, but the deal was controversially nullified by David Stern.  So the Hornets traded Paul to the Clippers for a package headed by Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman.  Much like any other team losing its star player, the Hornets struggled.  They failed to make the playoffs the next two seasons and were considered one of the league’s worst teams.

However, like when they drafted Paul, the now re-branded Pelicans drafted a big man named Anthony Davis, who has taken the league by storm and is considered today’s top big man.  Three years after Davis was drafted, New Orleans got back to the playoffs.  However, paired with a lack of depth (and Davis missing some key games with injury issues in 2015-16), New Orleans was unable to get back to the post-season the next two seasons before they ended back into the playoffs this past year thanks in part to some help from DeMarcus Cousins (until his injury knocked him out for the rest of the year after 48 games) and the emergence of Jrue Holiday.  They ended up seeing the semis once again but ran into the buzzsaw that we call the Golden State Warriors.  Time will tell if the Pelicans will end up being at the top of near the top of the tough-as-nails Western Conference with Davis, Holiday, and now Julius Randle and if the Pelicans now have a window to do something before Davis’s contract runs out in 2021.  Of course, it will be hard to do so when Golden State still rules and the Lakers now have LeBron while you still have a tough out with Houston (which is led by former Hornet Chris Paul).

CURSED MOVE:  I’m going to do two here.   The Jazz messed up by trading their 1979 first round pick to the Lakers for Gail Goodrich, who was mostly injured in his time in New Orleans.  The Lakers would use that first round pick, which was #1 overall, to get Magic Johnson.  Whoops.  However, by the time that draft took place, the Jazz were in Utah, but still.  A Johnson-to-Malone tandem would have been sick.

For the Hornets, the Paul trade wasn’t horrible as Gordon was a solid player for the Hornets/Pelicans, but he was no Paul.  He left after the 2016 season to Houston, where he is now teammates with Paul.  Kaman played well, but only played one season in New Orleans before he left for Dallas.  The third guy they got in the trade was Al-Farouq Aminu, was also a decent guy and played for New Orleans when he left for Dallas.  But Paul’s departure ended New Orleans chances of really being competitive until Davis arrived.  And while Paul hasn’t seen the holy grail either with the Clippers or Rockets, he is still one of the top point guards in the game.  So really this trade wasn’t a horrible as I said, but trading Paul away just signified the end for that run of good teams.

CURSED MOMENT:  I guess Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in 08.  The Hornets were an exciting team to watch and they had San Antonio on the ropes that whole series.  They just never were able to put it away and you got that vibe that season could not be replicated, even with Paul & Co.

CURSED RATING: 3/5 (CURSED).  It’s still relatively early for the Pelicans as they are in an NBA that has been criticized for the lack of parity especially now, but it isn’t like they haven’t had chances to be a top team in the West.  I’m also factoring in the Jazz run too and the fact that the Pelicans had to play two seasons in two different cities called their home and that is NOT an easy thing to do.  

So while the Super Bowl has given New Orleans fans relief after Hurricane Katrina, things after that Super Bowl run have been one gut-punch after another with the Saints from on the field playoff heartbreaks to BountyGate, to what have you (and especially if these are the last few years Brees will play given his age, that window may not be as wide despite the great young talent they have), if being unable to get another Super Bowl with Brees happens and they are a playoff regular, you do have to think the Saints have to be more cursed than what they are now.

To be fair, New Orleans isn’t a city that has massive curses on their sports teams like Atlanta, Minneapolis (spoiler alert), San Diego, Phoenix, and Buffalo (another spoiler alert), but since the Super Bowl run in 09, the Saints have really been bit hard by some of the worst breaks around (of course like New Orleans fans with the Falcons choking, Atlanta fans love every second of those Saints heart-breakers) as well as a huge controversial issue with trying to injure players.  And the Hornets haven’t had a lot of opportunities to be one of the top dogs in the NBA, but when they have, they’ve failed to capitalize on it.

So maybe there isn’t a major curse, but there has to be some negative voodoo juice going on down there for nearly the past 10 seasons.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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