Saints fans deserve a long overdo place in the positive spotlight because their team was the symbol of NFL futility...FOREVER !
"WHO DAT GONNA BEAT THE SAINTS?" IN THE EARLY YEARS...EVERYONE. THEY EVEN SEEMED TO HAVE A FOOT-HOLD ON BEING ON MORE NFL FILMS BLOOPER REELS THAN ANY OTHER TEAM.
The Saints were an expansion team in 1967. As is the case with most newly formed teams, their players were a collection of ragtag castoffs, big names well beyond their prime and rookies. The year before, the Atlanta Falcons had their inaugural season and won only one game. So when the Saints returned the opening kickoff of their first game for a touchdown, their followers were convinced that they were getting in on the ground floor of something special. It is repudiated that after the score, a fan stood-up and shouted, "This is going to be the greatest football team in history!" Due to the superstitious nature of that part of the country, (voodoo and conjuring), many felt it was that statement that forever jinxed the Saints. They lost that game, finished the season with only three wins and became synonymous with being the "doormats" of the NFL for a long time.
After 14 seasons, the New Orleans Saints still hadn't ever qualified for the playoffs. They crowned their awfulness with the 1980 season. That year, they lost their first 14 games before beating (my) New York Jets, (by one point). They finished that season with a gruesome 1-15 record. Along the way, they set a record that still stands for regular season games by losing to the 49ers, after being ahead by 28 points.
The local fans became embarrassed of the 1980 team and didn't want anyone to know they were attending the home games. So it became trendy to refer to the team as the, "Aints," and come to the stadium wearing a paper bag over their head.
The idea of wearing a paper bag to hide your identity was plagiarized or at least borrowed from Murray Langston. WHO?
Murray Langston was a Canadian-born comedian who got his big break in 1970 on TV's, "ROWAN AND MARTIN'S, LAUGH-IN." He then became a regular (100+ episodes) on the, "SONNY AND CHER SHOW." Langston continued getting work on other 70's variety shows while also writing material for, Joan Rivers, Redd Foxx, Jim Carrey and many others. He also wrote and appeared in several, "CANDID CAMERA," segments.
Langston made a terrible investment in a comedy club and went broke. Strapped for cash and desperate, he agreed to appear on TV's, "GONG SHOW." But he was so embarrassed by what he assumed was professionally, a giant step down, he insisted on wearing a bag over his head. He became billed as the "Unknown Comic."
AT FIRST, THE UNKNOWN COMIC USED AN ARSENAL OF CORNY JOKES IN RAPID-FIRE SUCCESSION. EVENTUALLY, HE GOT A BETTER RESPONSE WHEN HE AIMED RISQUE BARBS AT CHUCK BARRIS...THE SHOW'S CREATOR, PRODUCER AND HOST. TO THIS DAY, MANY PEOPLE INFLUENCED BY THE SHOW, (LIKE ME), REFER TO MEN NAMED CHUCK AS, "CHUCKY, CHUCKY, CHUCKY!"
Langston appeared in 150 episodes. He developed a cult following and let his real name get lost in the shuffle as the paper bag gimmick saved his career.
A BIG FAVORITE OF MINE, THE GONG SHOW WAS ON NBC's DAYTIME LINE-UP FROM JUNE 14, 1976 to JULY 21, 1978.
The "GONG SHOW" was a talent contest. In its original daytime format, first prize was a check for $516.32 plus a cheesy trophy. A panel of three celebrity judges would rate each act on a scale from 0-10...therefore 30 was a perfect score. However what made the show so funny was that the celebrities could bang a gong with a mallet in order to cut a contestant's performance short thus disqualifying them. Plus, the show intentionally included some terrible acts. The hi-jinx would start when there was a disagreement among the judges. Then they would pretend to fight each other to prevent an unwarranted gong.
In between the acts or as a lead-in to a commercial break, non-contestant performers were sent on the stage. My favorite was a stagehand named Eugene Patton.
NICKNAMED, "GENE-GENE THE DANCING MACHINE," PATTON WAS NOT AN ESPECIALLY GIFTED DANCER. HIS THEME SONG WAS COUNT BASIE'S, "JUMPIN' AT THE WOODSIDE." WHILE PERFORMING, OTHER STAGEHANDS WOULD THROW PROPS AT HIM FROM THE WINGS. I ALWAYS ANTICIPATED THE GIGANTIC AND REALISTIC STYROFOAM ROCK. AT FIRST IT LOOKED LETHAL...UNTIL IT BOUNCED. PATTON'S POPULARITY WAS FURTHER REWARDED WITH DIALOG IN THE 1980, "GONG SHOW," MOVIE.
The show had a stable of celebrity panelists. Jaye P. Morgan stands out because she was as perverse as 1976 censors would allow. Eventually the show switched to a nighttime version and I stopped watching. The Gong Show was still getting decent ratings when it was finally cancelled. It is definitely worth a visit to YOUTUBE to see more, (the first one at, "Unknown Comic on Gong Show," is a minute long and features a glimpse at panelists, Steve Martin, Jaye P. Morgan and host Chuck Barris).
Murray Langston, a.k.a. The Unknown Comic, was a small cog in the zany success of the Gong Show. And he should be memorialized for inventing the idea of performing with a bag over his head. Hopefully, this information doesn't burst your New Orleans Aints bubble...but at least in two weeks, your beloved Saints will finally take center stage as a serious team to beat.