I was inspired after watching Steve Gleason greatness during the #rebirth Saints game that aired last night on ESPN. Here are a couple of stories about the loudest roars I’ve ever heard at sporting events.
Being a lifelong Saints fan and season ticket holder prior to the Sean Payton/Drew Brees post Katrina teams, I’d never experienced too many ear popping moments as a sports fan or as a player on the PGA TOUR.
The PGA Tour’s loudest moment. The year is 1997 and we are playing the Phoenix Open on the PGA TOUR. The Phoenix Open is known for its rowdy atmosphere and one famously crowded hole. That hole is the 16th at TPC Scottsdale. It’s a 160 yard par three and the atmosphere around the hole is a combination of Mardi Gras revelers, spring breakers and college/NFL football tailgaters all located in one spot on the course. It’s Saturday, the 3rd round, I was paired with Jim Carter who lived in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area and was a star golfer at Arizona State University. Tiger was playing well a few groups behind us but Steve Jones was running away with the tournament. The crowd was juiced anticipating Tiger’s appearance on 16. The 15th hole is a par five and you have to exit the green and then walk through a tunnel to get to the 16th tee aka “the stadium”. It is a cool experience, it must be similar to what Major League ballers feel when they walk out through the smoke and fireworks into their stadiums. The entire 16th hole is completely surrounded nowadays by skyboxes. Back then, it was spectator mounds, bleachers and skyboxes. Below the bleachers sit all the college spring breakers from the mid-west and Arizona universities. I could describe the level of eye candy but I won’t. Let’s just say it’s one of the best scenes on TOUR if you are a bachelor. The total attendance for Saturday’s round tops 100,000 spectators. It’s quite the show. The beer starts flowing once the sun comes up and it doesn’t stop until midnight each day. Jim is first to hit and the crowd is chanting “ASU! ASU!” Someone yells out “The ASU money is on you Jim!” They were betting player against player on who hit it closest to the hole. Jim is a great guy, always nice to play with. He gets over his shot and noise level cranks up. It’s hard to play in front of the hometown fans, no matter who you are. Plus, he had the rival University of Arizona fans yelling at him to miss the green. It was loud. His ball was in the air heading straight for the pin, lands on the green and spins back off. There were cheers and boos all at once. Then it was my turn. I’m over my shot, getting ready to take it back when some college girl yells out “my money is on you Kelly!” I had to back off and take a look. She was wearing a bikini top and cut off shorts. It was an eye popping moment, everyone started laughing. I immediately felt a new kind of pressure that I had never experienced before. I get back over my shot and now I’m sweating, and saying to myself, please just get this ball on the green. I hit a 9 iron, it hits about the same spot as Jim’s but bounces forward. Thank you Golf Gods! It was loud, bikini girl was going nuts screaming “I win!” I put my hands in the air like I knocked in the winning putt. We finish the round and sign our scorecards and head for the driving range. I’m hitting balls on the range next to Patrick Burke one of the funniest pros on tour. He and his caddy had a lot of one liners rolling off their lips that day regarding the party atmosphere. We hear the crowd on 16th start to chant “Tiger! Tiger!” It was loud and he was actually still on the 15th green. The noise ramps up, everyone on the range just stopped hitting balls to take in the spectacle unfolding. The 16th hole is located near the driving range but the view is blocked by the skyboxes and mounds. There is a slight moment of quiet before we hear a burst of noise. One of the Pros on the range says “no way he hit it close.” Turns out it wasn’t Tiger. The first roar was for Omar Uresti, Tigers’ playing partner who hit first and knocked it about 2 feet from the pin which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Then the Tiger chants cranked up even louder. TIGER TIGER TIGER. It was his turn to hit but we couldn’t figure out what was going on from the range. It was just loud. There was another brief pause, Tiger’s ball was in the air. It takes one hop and goes in the hole for a hole in one. The noise was off the charts loud. Explosive. Plumes of dust rose up into the desert air from the fans stomping on the bleachers. It was like a bunch of smoke bombs going off. Fans began throwing beers up in the air like fireworks as Tiger walked from the tee to the green. I’ll never forget what one of the caddies said to me when we realized Tiger made the hole in one, he said jokingly “how far up his ass is that golden horseshoe anyway?” Turns out it’s pretty far up there. So that roar in 1997 was the loudest I had heard until that magical night back in September of 2006. The re-opening of the Super Dome. The first game back home for the Saints after Hurricane Katrina. The atmosphere was electric. It was a moment of everything is going to be ok. We got through Katrina and now it was time to celebrate. I sit in the top of the stadium, some of the best fans and seats are up top in the dome. We entered the stadium 2 hours early to partake in the festivities. Tailgating went on all day long outside the stadium but the beer lines were still longer than I had ever seen inside the dome. You could tell it was going to be a special night. I saw a friend in the beer line and tried to muscle my way into the line but one of the guys in the back of line said not tonight Mr. Pro. Everyone laughed and I was happy someone referred to me as “Pro” so I ended up buying 8 beers for the guys in line. I was feeling the moment.
The pregame show was fantastic, Green Day and U2 singing the ‘Saints Are Coming’. The Dome was rocking. I go to make another beer run but they are sold out. The game hasn’t even started. I see a guy walking with a case of beer, I offer him a Benjamin, he looks around and says “it’s all yours.” Problem was there were only 8 beers inside the box but our section loved the fact that I had scored.
Atlanta and Michael Vick get the ball to start the first quarter. Quick three and out and it’s time for them to PUNT. Enter Mr. Steve Gleason. He makes a quick move, breaks right up the middle of the line, extends his arms and makes the perfect block. Curtis DeLoatch scoops it up and runs it in for the score. The roar inside the Dome was insane. The beers flew in the air, everyone is jumping up and down. It was pure pandemonium. I yelled so loud that I got lightheaded and had to sit down, thought I might faint. People started crying with happiness. A friend said Mr. Gleason is now responsible for the most beer ever spilt at once during a football game.
It was a special moment in time not only for the Saints but for city of New Orleans. We were back.