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The Impossible Super Bowl Choice for Saints Fans

Does New Orleanians’ rivalry with Atlanta trump their hatred for the Pats?

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

First, you should know that I am a New Orleans Saints fan who once paid for an Aaron Brooks jersey with actual American dollars. I extremely do not bang with the Falcons, nor do I bang with the idea of their players and fans having things to be happy about. In fact, I really enjoy it when they don’t. The rationale for these feelings is as long and storied as the feelings themselves between fan bases are mutual. But if I had to choose a defining element of #NAH for myself and the Falcons, it would be when current free agent and noted dumbass Roddy White brought up Katrina in jest back in 2010, for which it will always and forever be too soon.

Second, Tom Brady has already been thoroughly raked over the coals for this, it being 2017 and fairly easy not to be a Luddite and all, but I’m going to share it anyway:

Now, this isn’t really so bad. You could reason that if Brady had said anything that moved the needle either way, somebody’s feathers would have gotten ruffled, which, fair enough. But here’s the thing: Even if Brady had approached the podium with purpose, swiped his Gatorade bottle away in a fit of righteous anger, and recited the “We Didn’t Land on Plymouth Rock” speech from memory, guess what. I still wouldn’t want the Patriots to win another ring.

There’s no two ways around it: This is a very difficult time for your boy.

On the cusp of this nation’s largest secular holiday, I’m on a fence between a briar patch and … some other type of thorny brush. There really isn’t any history between the two teams involved, regardless of how much each faction has tried — hilariously — to manufacture some. So there isn’t really a solid base of information on which to choose a rooting interest, not by traditional means, at least. Not that it matters to me whether the Falcons and the Patriots do or do not have a rivalry with each other, as I hate both of them. On the one side there’s my bitter divisional rival, and on the other there’s the “freak athlete” lunch-pail poster children of American exceptionalism. As a Saints fan, parsing the reasons I don’t like either of these teams in an effort to decide who I want to cheer for is more or less like attempting to bear-hug a continent. But as someone who has to at least attempt to make cogent points to diverse audiences, and on the off chance that you may also be struggling to choose between Bad and potentially Less-Bad, I’ll power through it.

Elsewhere in the league, there are plenty other divisional rivalries that don’t register on a national level, either because they’re not between much-trumpeted legacy teams, or because they’ve steeled themselves in bad divisions. These are tense, resentful rivalries in which one group of fans might wish small and ridiculous misfortunes on opposing fans, like hoping they stub their big toe on a coffee-table leg every time they walk barefoot through their house. That kind of thing. Raise your hand if you knew that Jaguars fans secretly hope that all the bad things in life happen to Titans fans and no one else. Now put your hands down, and get right with whomever or whatever you pray to when you knowingly tell lies. They play in the AFC South.

The Falcons and the Saints have been at each other’s necks since they both joined the league in the mid-1960s, after which for a long time they were the only two NFL franchises in what we recognize as the South. It was always about — more than football, as neither franchise was really ever that good — whether New Orleans or Atlanta got to parade themselves as the destination city below the Mason-Dixon, if that’s still how we’re thinking through divvying up the country. The two cities have always been reluctant to admit that we’re closer than we are far apart — Mike Vick, whose jersey and edition of Madden I owned, was Aaron Brooks’s cousin. I like Outkast, and Rembert Browne likes Lil Wayne. We would both jump at the opportunity to be the fourth Migo. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne are basically brothers, although they don’t really have football to beef over, as Wayne is a Packers fan, lest we forget, among his many other transgressions.

All the same, there comes a time when each of us must shed our novelty Reebok jerseys and put down our foam fingers, bobbleheads, and “Terrible Towels” to join forces or be relegated to a footnote in a dynasty. Brady hasn’t thrown an incomplete pass since the merger, and the Patriots have been winning forever. But for Russell Wilson’s or Pete Carroll’s unconscionable decision to throw it on the 1, I feel like we might’ve gotten them out of the paint two years ago.

In theory, I’m still very much in favor of the Goodell Crow-Eating Fest taking place at the NRG Stadium 50-yard line Sunday night, even though everyone involved in Deflategate should have to kneel on rice while watching that cringe-worthy 1985 “Ram IT” video on loop for an hour. But in practice, it’s just too hot out here for a blissfully unaware and well-to-do quarterback and a red-white-and-blue team that is literally called “The Patriots” to be prospering right now. Also, I know he’s not playing but:

This is not that hard of a choice.

Will the Falcons win? Probably not. Bill Belichick knows exactly when, where, and how each of us will die. But what’s setting yourself up for disappointment one more time? And if the Falcons do win, well — at worst it might feel a lot like orange juice tastes immediately after brushing your teeth. Unsavory, but vital.