I know, most Who Dats have not started laying out their lucky jerseys, jester’s hats, Super Bowl beads or even decided whether the face paint will be black on gold or gold on black this year. Of course, their favorite team is still more than a week from opening training camp on July 25, and ESPN is still carrying more stories about baseball, bowling and baccarat than Brees. But trust me on this one. Bastille Day is the official starting flag to another optimism-inducing, ecstasy-teasing, frustration-filled, hope-killing 16-game slog through the Sahara Desert that is the NFC South.
For those of you who are historically challenged, Bastille Day is July 14, a major holiday in France because it commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 and the beginning of a revolution that led to a democratic government. The linking of Bastille Day to the start of the NFL season was crafted by an NFL legend, the late George Young, the legendary GM of the New York Giants. Young drafted such stars as QB Phil Simms and LB Lawrence Taylor, and he hired Bill Parcells as head coach and Ernie Accorsi who would later succeed George and forge his own record of Super Bowl champions.
George Young’s most endearing quality was that he never considered himself anything more than the history teacher he was back at City College High School in his native Baltimore. His favorite tidbit of advice to a young Padawan of a negotiator was never get nervous about the Dark Side of an unsigned contract until Bastille Day. The significance to NFL negotiators is that Bastille Day is always a week or so before training camps open, which is when teams ideally want all their players signed. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement has taken some of the luster off rookie negotiations since the new rules make holdouts an IQ test for first-year players. Hold out, and you fail!
Ditto the current tendency to lock up your own veteran players or to strike early in free agency to give the new guys a full off-season with their new schemes and teammates. Probably the last time a significant holdout went through Bastille Day was the Drew Brees imbroglio. Although Bastille Day does not imply the urgency of “getting them signed” that it used to, it still is a valid date on the NFL calender. Training camps will soon open, ushering in South Louisiana’s favorite topic of conversation that for the next seven months extends to their favorite college, high school and playground teams.
And don’t forget the economic benefit of Bastille Day for area cleaning establishments. That is when the citoyens of Who Dat Nation, subconsciously humming La Marseillaise, begin the march down Poydras Street to give their royal raiment their last full airing until January. Such NOLAbility as Da Pope, Mousey, Holy Moses, Whistle Monster, the Mad Hatter and Cat Woman will soon begin to pull their robes, spandex tights and sacred vestments from their moth-proofed vaults and storm the Superdome. And to the Falcons, Bucs and Panthers, we say: Guillotine!
by Jim W. Miller
His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is available at Amazon.com and at local bookstores. And don't forget his website JimWMillerSports.com