"Why do you think I wear the number 9?" Brees told Sports Illustrated's Peter King in January. "I wear the number 9 because of Ted Williams. When I was a kid, I watched a video of great hitters, and I was a left-handed hitter, he was a left-handed hitter. There was just a lot of reasons why I really liked him."
King recounted his conversation with Brees on WEEI to clear up a misconception about the Saints' quarterback.
Despite idolizing Williams, Brees took some heat at the end of the regular season for being un-Williams-like. The Saints' signal-caller sat out the final game of the year and broke the NFL record for completion percentage (he completed 70.6 percent of his passes to snap the old mark of 70.55 percent set by former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson in 1982). It wasn't Brees' choice. He wanted to approach the record like Williams did in his quest for .400 — when The Kid played his last game of the season and ended up hitting .406 — but New Orleans coach Sean Payton chose to sit Brees in a meaningless game rather than risk injury.
Some sports fans noticed the congruous theme, and rabid ones pounced all over Brees for "being no Ted Williams."
Brees took it as a personal affront after worshipping Teddy Ballgame his whole life. Now Brees hopes to do something with the Saints that Ted Williams never could with the Red Sox — win a championship.
It's just one of many reasons why New England sports fans should root for the Super Bowl XLIV underdogs this Sunday against the Colts.
If the "Win One for The Splinter" angle doesn’t inspire you to cheer on the Saints, there are a few others.
The Colts have taken the title of AFC king from the Patriots. It's official now, after years of seeing signs, hearing whispers and living in denial. But if it weren't for some fourth-and-2 call by Bill Belichick that ended worse than Seinfeld, maybe this season would have gone differently for the Patriots. Maybe we'd even be talking about a Patriots-Saints showdown in Miami.
Instead, another Manning brother gets another shot at glory. There was a time when Peyton Manning couldn't win anything that mattered, Tom Brady was the greatest quarterback in the football universe and Eli Manning was just Peyton's little punching bag.
Then, Peyton Manning led the Colts to a 38-34 win over the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, Indianapolis went on to win Super Bowl XLI and Peyton Manning was no longer part of the Greatest Quarterbacks Who Never Won the Big One club.
The following year, Eli Manning grew up, and the Giants spoiled the Patriots' perfect season and took home the Lombardi Trophy.
Two seasons, back-to-back Manning coronations. For Patriots fans, it was about as enjoyable as being strapped to a chair, with eyelids held open by metal clamps, Clockwork Orange-style, and forced to watch The View on loop.
Just about the time the shock to the system and taste of bile had passed, Brady blew out his knee.
It's been a rough stretch for those who tailgate at Foxboro. Those who believe in karma could call it payback for Spygate. Others might call it life. But seeing Peyton Manning weep on the sidelines might make this offseason a little less painful for Belichick's army.
The Saints have come a long way from the days of torturing their fans and turning the Superdome into an Unknown Comic convention. Even Madden (the video game) is predicting an upset win over the favored Colts.
On top of that, a Saints Super Bowl title would be the perfect Hollywood ending. It couldn’t be scripted any better if Charlie Kaufman did the adaptation. A Lombardi Trophy would make The Blind Side look like The Elephant Man. And just might leave everyone outside Indianapolis singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" like Fats Domino.
Sure, productivity might remain slow in New Orleans for a few more weeks — or months — but the city could use some good news. And more parades.
Life in the Big Easy hasn't been so easy since Hurricane Katrina hit, and the Saints haven't had much to celebrate since they entered the NFL in 1967. The last time they won it all was never. The last time they had hope was longer than that.
Red Sox fans should be able to relate. Before 2004, every season was viewed through a fatalistic prism — it wasn't a matter of if things would go wrong, but when. One magical series against the Yankees changed all that, and four wins over the Cardinals wiped away 86 years of misery.
This Super Bowl is bigger than a game for the Saints, New Orleans and every member of Who Dat Nation.
The Saints aren't the Aints anymore.
Either it's another sign the apocalypse is on our doorstep, or it's proof that nothing is impossible. Go with the latter (the world has enough feel-bad stories).
And go Saints.
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