The focus for many New Orleans Saints fans this weekend will be pulling for the Atlanta Falcons to lose this Super Bowl.
Count me in that number as I don’t want to see the Dirty Birds hoist a Super Bowl banner in their shiny new $1.2 billion stadium (which like the Superdome also bears the Mercedes Benz name) at the start of the 2017 NFL season.
Right behind the start of Mardi Gras season, the second most important salve for Saints fans after a disappointing season is the misfortune of Atlanta.
However there is something Who Dats can cheer FOR on Super Bowl weekend.
On the eve of what unlicensed businesses refer to as the “big game”, the 46 deciders will gather in Houston to choose who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame from a field of 15 retired players.
And one of the 15 is former Saints kicker Morten Andersen.
The Great Dane has been up for this honor before, as he should be as the league’s all time leading scorer with 2,544 points. You’d think that distinction alone would have made him a first ballot lock. But not so in a sport that often forgets the first half of its very name.
Of the 300 plus busts inside gridiron shrine, only two belong to pure kickers: Kansas City Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud, like Andersen a fellow Nordic native, and Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy.
And Guy had to wait almost thirty years after he hung up his cleats to get inducted.
Before the legendary punter was finally voted in, I had a chance to chat with two Hall of Famers about Guy.
Running back Marcus Allen, a team mate of Guy’s, felt that the honor was long overdue. Yet when I posed the same question to Dick Butkus the notoriously brutal linebacker was just as hard in his assessment, musing that if they put in a punter, even the best, should they also put in the best long snapper?
The Butkus view seems to have predominated amongst the induction voters as Andersen, who played in twenty NFL seasons for five different teams, has been waiting for a long overdue honor.
To their credit, local boosters and the team that drafted Andersen have done their part to create a push for him by swiftly inducting #7 into the franchise Hall of Fame and making Andersen a member of the more exclusive Superdome Ring of Honor , which counts only three other players- two of whom are in Canton (linebacker Rickey Jackson and tackle Willie Roaf).
Beyond holding the record for points (you know the actual things used to determine which team wins a game), the Copenhagen native has long been considered to be the best kicker of the 1980s and 1990s and has the unique claim of being the all-time scorer for two teams (the Saints and the Falcons).
To get in Anderson will need to receive support from 80% of the hall voters. A minimum of 4 players must be inducted and no more than 8 can be enshrined in a class.
Andersen has some stiff competition to make the top 4, with running back LaDainian Tomlinson, safety Brian Dawkins, quarterback Kurt Warner, and wide receiver Terrell Owens also up for consideration.
But if the voters are feeling generous and they are inclined to put in five or more players, Andersen’s status as all-time leading scorer might be enough to overcome the apparent prejudice against kickers.
One of the concerns is that Andersen is not likely to hold on to his distinction too much longer as Adam Vinatieri is closing in on the record, only 167 points and no more than two seasons away from becoming number one.
Time could be of the essence as you don’t hear much of a bandwagon for Gary Anderson, the second overall point scorer in NFL history, to get inducted.
Back in March of 2016Jim Mora expressed confidence that 2017 is likely the year Andersen finally gets into the pantheon of football.
Hopefully the coach who finally made the Saints a winner is right about the man who literally booted the Black and Gold into its first winning seasons and the playoffs.
While I will be cheering for the New England Patriots out of spite for their opponents on the field and in the league office, the player I’ll be rooting for the most this weekend is Andersen.