The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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September 7, 2012

Joe Hadsall: Excited for Saints to start the season

JOPLIN, Mo. — Finally, football.

Or, more accurately: Finally, Saints football.

For those of you who don’t know, I was born in New Orleans. Though I have lived in New Jersey and Missouri for most of my life, my dad and I always kept the fires going for the Saints all through my childhood, avoiding the Giants, Jets, Chiefs and later the Rams like the plague. As part of his job in insurance, my dad got to walk around on the roof of the Superdome when it was being built.

Hadsalls are die-hard Whodats, in other words. One of the joys of my life is how The Lovely Paula Hadsall and Duncan became Saints fans by osmosis, without a word of convincing or pleading by me. And as a Dolphins fan, Mitchell doesn’t hate the Saints, so that’s good, too.

The official start to the season happened Wednesday night, when the Dallas Cowboys played the New York Giants. Because this column was written before the game, I don’t know who won, but I know that home teams in season openers are undefeated since 2003, the year after the NFL started pairing the Super Bowl winner with a visiting team a few days before Sunday.

I know I rooted for the Giants, who are quarterbacked by New Orleanian Eli Manning. Plus, I really hate the Cowboys, but that has less to do with the actual team and more to do with a Christmas present disappointment and an ex-girlfriend who was a raving fan. TMI? Probably.

I do know that it was weird for the New Orleans Saints to not be involved in that game. No other team has played more season openers than the Saints (three games) Ñ they are the only team to repeat opening-day appearances (2010 and 2011).

But all that weirdness will be gone Sunday, when I can watch the Saints take on the Washington Redskins.

I don’t know how I’ll watch the game yet. The allure of Geek Central is strong: Thanks to a high-speed Internet connection and a comfy office chair, I can fire up WWL’s broadcast of the Saints Radio Network and listen to Jim Henderson and Hokie Gajan call the game.

Henderson has been the voice of the Saints for years, and his calls of Saints games are edged with the tension of impending disaster, followed by emotional celebration when that disaster is averted. I’ve spent many years riveted to my computer screen, listening to the gameday broadcast and following play-by-play drive charts.

But because it’s opening weekend, I have an urge to go out and watch the game among other fans. It’s been a long offseason, and I like talking football with other people and enjoying a day hearing cheers and cussing.

Joplin has a couple of good, non-smoking places to watch the game (yes, non-smoking is important to me for various asthma- and laundry-related reasons):

¥ Gusano’s is a no-brainer: Its bar features a wide variety of draught beers, the pizza is phenomenal, and they have plenty of well-placed TVs.

¥ Pitchers was a pleasant surprise: We watched the Saints play the Detroit Lions in the playoffs last season at Pitchers, and loved how all the TVs were at a great eye level. The food was pretty good, too.

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