After two disappointing straight losses at the hands of Dallas on a Thursday night and Tampa Bay this past Sunday, many Saints fans were beginning to believe that their team had peaked too soon. Frankly, a couple of plays late in each game might have made the difference to have helped the Saints maintain a perfect season. But perfection is not everything as Indianapolis learned this past Sunday. After all, it is far more important to keep fixed on the goal of getting to the Superbowl and to play the very best games possible in the playoffs. Frankly, the last game of the season against the Carolina Panthers on January 3 doesn't count for anything other than bragging rights about whether the Saints can defeat them twice in one season or split the two decisions. I would not be surprised to see Coach Sean Payton keep Drew Brees out of a portion of the game in order to keep him rested and out of danger of a possible injury prior to the start of the playoff season. So, surprise of all surprises last night when I tuned in to the Chicago Bears game against the Minnesota Vikings. The score in the third quarter was Chicago 16, Minnesota 0. What? I gulped hard and thought to myself "Be still my heart." The Minnesota Vikings with the fabulous Brett Favre (almost a local boy from Kiln, Mississippi) should have been way ahead of the Bears. Indeed, it didn't take long for Favre to play catchup in the remainder of the third and fourth quarters. The score was evened at 23 each and then again at 30 a piece. Then the game went into sudden death overtime. The Bears won the coin toss and elected to receive. They got down to within potential field goal range, but the kick was errant. Then the Vikings took over and they took their shot, but were denied by the tenacious Bears defense. After the Bears failed to capitalize on the following drive, Favre looked like he was about to put the game away. He tossed a short pass off to one of his receivers who added nearly ten yards on the carry when the ball was punched out of his arm by a crafty Bear defender. The ball popped out as a fumble and was jumped on by the Bears, setting up a near perfect touchdown pass into the endzone by Bear quarterback Jeff Cutler. In this case Cutler, the student, taught Favre, the master, a lesson from the playbooks. It was an incredible see-saw battle, but in the end the winner turned out to be the New Orleans Saints. Based on their 13-2 record and Minnesota's unbelievable third loss in the last four weeks, New Orleans secured home field advantage at the Superdome for what Saints fans hope will be the next two games played there before a shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Miami. Nothing good ever comes from something easily obtained, but the Saints have achieved one of their major season goals by the most unlikely of friends, the same Chicago Bears team that denied them a shot at the Superbowl a couple of years back. Politics and football make strange bedfellows, it would seem.
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Theta Theta chapter of Sigma Alpha Rho fraternity right here in New Orleans. Many of my contemporaries will recall that this high school fraternity reached its height in the late Sixties and early Seventies. After that time the relevance of high school fraternities became lessened and many Jewish students gravitated towards AZA, a B'nai Brith Youth Organization. Sadly, the local chapter lost much support from the local community and quietly died sometime in the late Seventies, as best I can tell. It's a shame because some of my best memories from high school revolved about many of the events sponsored by S.A.R. Some of my earliest writing can be found in some of the old newspapers we printed on a mimeograph machine owned by the fraternity. I learned much about putting together a newspaper as well as the necessity of selling advertising for much of the more upscale publications such as the program printed for the White Orchid Formal, held each December 29. There are no such opportunities for Jewish youth these days. The high school sorority, Sigma Theta Pi, also shut down around the same time. High school fraternities are indeed dinosaurs and have lost out to organized sports and other school-related activities. I still feel the loss, even though most of today's kids don't really know what they're missing. Many of my closest friends today were S.A.R. fraternity brothers and given the fact that I never did pledge a college fraternity, those friendships are still dear to my heart.