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Saints' Fans Dream They Go to Heaven

October 05, 1987|MIKE DOWNEY

NEW ORLEANS — Oh, when the Saints (oh, when the Saints!) go marching out (go marching out!), oh, when those Saints go marching out . . . oh, how I want to wear one of their numbers . . . when the Saints go marching out . . . !

Everybody sing. This is the new New Orleans jingle. The new team theme. The beat they'll keep on Basin Street. It might even accompany the National Football League's new sales pitch.

" Hey there, friends! Want to play pro football while the rest of the Saints are elsewhere? Then call now about our special introductory offer! We'll take anybody! We're equal-opportunity strike-busters! You say you're a bricklayer? A stockbroker? A glass-cutter? You say you sell used cars? Well, kiss that business goodby! Become a professional football player! Make big money! Meet big women! Hit people without getting arrested! It's fun for you and for your entire family! What's more--it's real! These games actually count! So, don't wait! Drop whatever you're doing and call our player personnel office right now! Operators are standing by!"

Such was the desperate measure the New Orleans Saints practically had to take when their authentic, everyday players walked out on them. And possibly it is the approach they should have been using all along. As a fan's Superdome banner reminded everybody here Sunday, the Saints have spent their entire history playing as if they were on strike. These new guys--these sc . . . , er, I mean, these strike-breakers--couldn't do much worse.

Which turned out to be absolutely true. New Orleans, an NFL franchise that has scored 38 or more points exactly 6 times in 21 years, stepped right up and slam-danced the Rams, 37-10, with an assortment of football players so anonymous they might as well have worn brown paper bags over their heads instead of helmets.

By day's end, quarterback John Fourcade had become the most popular mister out of Ole Miss since Archie Manning; the Superdome scoreboard was blowing kisses to these nobodys who'd had the gall to cross NFL Players Assn. picket lines, and 29,745 fans were on their feet chanting: "Stay on strike! Stay on strike!" Also on his feet: dancing fool Tom Benson, the team owner, who did a sideline shimmy with a parasol in his hand that looked as though he was auditioning for the Leslie Caron role in a road company production of "GiGi."

Meanwhile, over at Operation RamScab, the odd squad from Anaheim put on a performance so pitiful Georgia Frontiere wouldn't have wanted to smudge her lipstick on any of them. Had Madame Ram been on the sideline, surely she would have turned the other cheek. Just as Coach John Robinson couldn't have stomached much more. He's seen better football played by Stanford.

The Rams were supposed to have an advantage for this game because they had a real NFL quarterback, Steve Dils, and not some down-and-out character like Fourcade, who, in a few short years, had become persona non grata with the NFL, USFL, CFL and AFL-CIO. As things turned out, though, Dils overthrew and underthrew anybody and everybody, Fourcade looked like Y.A. Tittle, and the world-famous Rams wound up using a quarterback from the University of Hawaii (and UCLA) by the name of Bernard Quarles.

What a day, what a day. There hasn't been a football game so bad since Chico handed off to Groucho. Except, way down yonder in New Orleans, everybody sort of enjoyed it. After all, you don't get to see the Saints beat somebody by 27 points every day.

Veteran defensive end Bruce Clark felt so uplifted by the whole experience, he even called himself the . . . you know . . . the S word. "Hey, it could be a Scab Super Bowl this year," Clark said. "And if we happen to make it to the Super Bowl, hey, we made it to the Super Bowl!"

Hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Better consider the wit and wisdom of one Reggie Sutton, second-year cornerback, who blocked a Ram punt and returned it for a touchdown. Ol' Reggie figures the striking Saints got an eyeful Sunday, and won't want to risk their jobs one more solitary minute.

"They're gonna beat the door down Monday!" was how he saw things.

On Sunday morning, some of Reggie's brother Saints were out there manning the picket line, supported by men from Sheet Metal International Local 11 and Ironworkers Local 58. They were not supported by the typical Man on the Street, who yelled things like "Go back to work, you bums!" and "Y'all already got enough money!" nor by a certain Woman on the Street, who screamed her opinions into cornerback Dave Waymer's face.

Waymer, the ex-Notre Damer, tried to explain his own point of view more calmly.

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