On Sunday September 14th of 2008, my wife and I took a trip to Washington, DC for the Saints-Redskins game. We proudly supported our Saints despite the fact that we were clearly outnumbered. I carried the valued #25 jersey on my back while my wife sported an old school Joe Horn jersey. We were greeted by a number of lighthearted insults, snide comments and death stares - All things you expect traveling to enemy turf. The people we sat next to were actually fairly nice, but I quickly noticed how negative they would become after a bad play and how quick they were to turn on their own. You think we're negative as Saints fans after years of losing? For a franchise that has won numerous Superbowls, their fans were no better. For the most part I was reserved in my cheering because I wanted to be respectful of all the Redskins fans around me and not put my wife in the bad position of having to witness any sort of confrontation. The only time I really got animated was the Reggie Bush punt return for a touchdown. I felt free to stand up and let people see the jersey I was wearing while making noises reminiscent of the New Orleans arena when Chris Paul turns one of his ridiculous three point plays.
Then, things took a turn for the worst. The Redskins came out of nowhere and found a way to win the game down two scores with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter and that was when we began to get treated like Al-Qaeda supporters. Outside of the stadium the things that were said to us were so rude and offensive (and of course the token: you should have drowned in Katrina) my wife vouched to never travel to an away game again. There were several times I feared for our well being and health. The things that were said and done to us were obscene at times, and most of it is unfit for me to share on a blog that kids might read. Suffice it to say it was really really bad. I'm not one to fisticuff, but preservation and self defense was on my mind.
I know what some of you are thinking. "Well, you go to an away game wearing Saints gear - what do you expect?". "Big deal, they said mean things to you". My wife and I are thicked skinned and we are not easily offended AT ALL. This was different. I've been to Carolina in a Saints uniform. I've been to Atlanta. I've been to other venues, too. I don't know if the fans were more charged than usual by the late game heroics, or if the further north you go the more brutal the fans are; but by I don't consider myself a violent person in the least yet I found myself thinking: "How can I allow this man to say these things to my wife and not punch him in the face?". I'm a Saints season ticket holder and have attended many games over the years - I have NEVER seen anyone treated 25% as bad in the Superdome.
I notice we play them again on December 6th this season and I think it's pretty safe to assume there's no way I'll convince my wife to go again. As a matter of fact, I doubt I would go back without 2 male Saints fans in better physical shape than me. I will be watching that game, though, and I won't feel one bit sorry if we pull a Spurrier-esque playcalling strategy up 50 in the 4th quarter.
I learned two things that day:
1. The NFL is not a family environment. You can't enjoy games with your wife/kids on enemy turf and feel 100% safe that they won't be treated very poorly.
2. I hate the Washington Redskins.