The Pressure in New Orleans

The New Orleans Saints have a colorful past, which only makes sense for one of the most eccentric cities in the country. New Orleans has great food, music, shopping and festivals second only to Chicago (but of course I'm biased). New Orleans is by far the strongest, one serious blow after another, the city continues to rebuild and transform. Being at the bottom of the map has exposed them to hurricanes, none more devastating than Hurricane Katrina. And now the city is back in the spotlight due to a severe oil spill that is paralyzing the seafood industries, wildlife and family-owned businesses. Through it all, the sports world keeps it ticking and even the beloved Superbowl champions have found themselves in an unfavorable light...again.

Over the last few days, reports of drug abuse have come seeping out of the doors of the Saints camp. Former Saints security director and ex-FBI agent, Geoffrey Santini, filed a lawsuit Friday stating he left his position with the Saints because he didn't want to get caught up in a drug scandal involving the team. Santini didn't specifically name individuals, only naming them as "Senior Staff Member A" and "Senior Staff Member B". However, his detailed description of a break into the Saints drug locker pointed towards assistant head coach Joe Vitt. The former security director also insinuated that head coach Sean Payton, who has always been Mr. Good Guy, abuses Vicodin.

For a team and a city still high, no pun intended, off of winning the Lombardi trophy, this scandal is certainly not welcome. Under normal circumstances the adrenaline rush before, during and shortly thereafter the Superbowl tends to wear off by mid February. However, when your team has a history of fans decked out on paper bags and having never been to the Superbowl, the bragging rights clearly last well into the warmer days of spring. Louisiana natives are still wearing championship paraphernalia, and watching highlights of the game. But it seems as though the needle on the record has been scratched, the nails have traced the chalkboard, and the party seems to be over.

These allegations are new to the general public, but the Saints organization has been dealing with this issue since last summer, and turned over all evidence to authorities in June of 2009. After the allegations leaked on Friday, Saints officials said the lawsuit had no merit. The organization also stated Santini shopped the lawsuit to them before filing, seeking $2 million to keep it to himself. Coach Payton came forward Saturday and said, "I have never abused or stolen Vicodin or any other medication."

There are many, many questions and statements have been more than vague. The 13-page lawsuit highlights the existence of videotape showing Vitt stealing Vicodin pills, a possible cover-up by team general manager Mickey Loomis, and coach Payton taking Vicodin without a prescription. Every prescription drug, in every NFL locker room is accounted for and requires a written prescription from a team doctor. Therefore, missing pills ending up in the hands of those not intended would ultimately result in federal charges. Every Saints fan, and really every football fan that has been charmed by the Cinderella team, that rose out of the Katrina waters with a discarded and presumably broken quarterback wants a happy ending. The Saints became America's team, the underdog that everyone found himself of herself rooting for. As a newly inducted passenger on the Saints bandwagon, I certainly hope the allegations turn out to be false.

We, yes I said we, already have to deal with quarterback Drew Brees being voted onto the cover of Madden 2011. Whether you believe in the curse or not, Madden 2010 did effect Troy Polamalu and just barely escaped Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe someone in New Orleans can whip up some voodoo magic and make all of this go away (call it a stereotype if you want, I'm just offering suggestions).


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