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Barry Hirstius

Saints and Their Fans Need to Embrace “UNDERDOG” Label in 2017

"Underdogs." For the New Orleans Saints during the 2017 NFL regular season, it's a label that whether they and their passionate fans like it or not, is a term that they're going to be forced to come to grips with.

When your team finishes 7-9 for the 3rd straight year and misses the NFL Playoffs all 3 of those years; then it's normal for the other 32 teams in the NFL (and their fans as well) to not only stop fearing you or respecting you, but they also STOP BELIEVING in your ability to win games.

Yet so often thus far during this off-season, we have seen and heard from the Saints players themselves a sense of unwavering commitment and resolve to show the rest of the League that despite the low projections and unflattering predictions for New Orleans in the upcoming season (several experts are picking the Saints to finish last in the NFC South for 2017), that they are very determined to prove otherwise.

Unfortunately, that resolve isn't shared by a majority of Saints fans within the 'Who Dat Nation'; most of whom still think the rest of the world is completely against their team and still subscribe to the never-ending conspiracy theory among some of the fan-base's "die-hards" that the NFL --- along with the help of the National Sports Media (and specifically the ESPN network) --- is deliberately and purposely trying to sabotage the team with negative coverage.

As ridiculous as that might sound to most, a simple scroll through Saints-related Tweets on Twitter or a view of any handful of comments on Saints or NFL-related themed articles and Group Pages on Facebook, will bear that out.

Which is exactly why instead of being upset or angry every time that they see or hear something that they perceive to be negative about the team, Saints fans simply just need to laugh about it or blow it off and began embracing it.

It's within our human nature to be dismissive about something that hasn't been successful in a while; and since the Saints haven't been to the NFL Playoffs since 2013, it's for that reason alone and quite frankly no other reason supported by a conspiracy theory, as to why the Saints aren't "getting any love"  at the moment.

But here's something else funny about human nature: people DO LOVE the "underdog".

In their collective analysis a few years ago in the Harvard Business Review about the role of the "underdog" within our culture and society, authors Anat Keinan, Jill Avery, and Neeru Paharia point out that it's within ourselves as typical humans, to instinctively root for someone or something that no one else believes can accomplish or achieve any sort of goal.

Their solution?

Don't be offended by it, but instead TAKE ADVANTAGE of it.

They point out that in business (and this applies directly to sports as well), that the "underdog" brand (or label) share two important narrative components: a disadvantaged position (they highlight a company’s humble beginnings and portray it as being “outgunned” by bigger, better-resourced competitors) and a passion and determination to triumph against the odds.

It's the reason why for example that if you live in Louisiana, you may find yourself as a beer drinker more inclined to drink the locally-brewed Abita Beer products or Dixie Beer's "Blackened Voodoo", over the more prominent national Budweiser or Coors brands.

To test the theory, the authors even conducted an experiment where they looked at how consumers’ self-image and circumstances affect their reaction to underdog and top-name brands.

The idea or notion was that consumers not only would prefer "underdog" brands but would do so because they identified with the brand’s underdog characteristics.

Subjects did in fact show a preference for the "underdogs", most dramatically in a study that they did involving chocolate candy.

One brand had an "underdog" story: they described it as small and new, and competing against powerhouse candy companies that you see at the shopping mall like Lindt and Godiva. The other brand had an established, well-known and reputable top-of-the-line biography, characterized by experienced founders and a big marketing budget.

The result?

71% of subjects still chose the "underdog" brand of chocolate.

So......How in the hell does this relate to the New Orleans Saints, you ask?

Photo courtesy of Bill Feig, The Associated Press

It's very simple.

If you're a fan of the New Orleans Saints, then stop being so easily offended by anything you feel or perceive to be negative or against your favorite team.

There is no conspiracy theory.

Nobody is intentionally"hating" on the Saints team or "hates" you personally, just because you root for them. And even if they did, that's THEIR problem, not yours. (I'm looking at you, Atlanta Falcons fans).

So..... ESPN or some jackass from NFL.com is picking the Saints to finish last in their division this year?

With the regular season still a whole 2 months away and long before they (or he) have even had the chance to SEE them or any one of the other 32 NFL teams in Training Camp and the Pre-Season first; and account for any type of injuries that could directly impact or affect the regular season down the line?

Who cares???

Let them say what they want, because it doesn't matter.

In the end, it's the Saints who will actually play the games, not them.

And if they end up being right? Then so be it. 

But DON'T let it affect the way that you feel about the team that's probably been the one you've rooted for since you were a kid --- the very same team that your Dad and your Dad's Dad (a.k.a. "Paw Paw") taught you to love from the time that you were old enough to wear Black and Gold memorabilia like t-shirts or pajamas.

Photo courtesy of Saints QB Drew Brees

So the Saints will be "underdogs" this year?

Okay, fine then. 

Embrace it. The Saints players themselves, have.

And when the Saints are 3-point "underdogs" at Minneapolis on Monday Night, September 11th and the "talking heads" on ESPN are telling you that the Saints have NO SHOT to win the game that night, remember that you read this article.

And then sit back and relax with your ice-cold Louisiana-brewed Abita Beer in your hand --- and just "let the chips, fall where they may".....

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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