Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chapel with the Saints

We lived in New Orleans from 1975 until 1980.

I was attending seminary or doing graduate work at Tulane University the entire time. I also served as minister with a downtown church. It was quite interesting, to say the least!

One of my most memorable experiences occurred on Sunday, September 17, 1978. I was invited to serve as chaplain for the New Orleans Saints that day.

My assignment included speaking to the team in a devotional setting that morning before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the third game of the season. The Saints came in at 0-2, having lost their first two games of the year to Minnesota and Green Bay.

I ate breakfast with the team that morning. Hank Stram was the head coach, and I was seated at his table. Archie Manning was the star quarterback for a team that couldn't seem to do much better than 7-9 in any year.

The chapel service was voluntary, of course.

Coach Stram made himself scarce when it was time to begin.

I'll never forget Archie Manning, front and center and supportive of my every word. That was back in the day when we would run into the entire Manning family at the cafeteria after church on Sundays during the off season. Payton and Cooper were just little boys. Eli (who'll suit up for the New York Giants today in the Super Bowl) had not yet arrived in the Manning family. I love the Bill Frakes' Sports Illustrated photo I've posted here from Tuesday's edition of The New York Times

Since those days, things have changed a bit in the National Football League.

The team was fairly close knit, a community of fellow strugglers. Player salaries weren't nearly as high as today. The Saints were a motely crew!

As I recall, I read Paul's words to the Philippians about "forgetting what is behind and pushing on to what is ahead" or something like that. If laughter means anything positive, then it seemed to work for the players who were there.

As a kid who grew up playing and loving football, it was an important experience for me. In my office today you can see a regulation Saints helmet on my wall, a commemoration of that day with the Saints.

By the way, they lost the game to the Eagles 24-17. Archie threw for 239 yards before 49,242 screaming Saints fans. And, did I mention that breakfast was amazing?


1 comment:

belinda said...

Being a Crimson Tide fan, I'm not a fan of the Manning family.