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So SAD: A malady in black and gold

Editor's note: Scott Gold has been worried lately. Every autumn he sees his loved ones overtaken by something beyond his control. It doesn’t last but a day or so, but friends and family will isolate themselves, bite their fingernails, and wrap themselves in crocheted blankets to feel comfort in the face of danger. Luckily, there’s a cure. Scott brings us this commentary for NolaVie.

There is an illness among us. Like most of the more nefarious maladies, this one goes undetected for long periods, sometimes years, even decades, before one might notice that something has gone terribly awry. It’s sneaky like that. But once you notice it, you can’t un-notice it; you’re marked for life.

I don’t know whether this particular ailment is genetic, bacterial, or viral in nature, or maybe it’s purely psychosomatic, but one thing I’m sure of is that it is location specific. And that location, it turns out, has an area code of five-oh-four. If you are from or live in New Orleans, the chances of you suffering from this illness are staggeringly high.

Friends, family, esteemed colleagues, and fellow New Orleanians all, I am talking, of course, about Saints Affective Disorder, or S.A.D.

I first noticed this disease in my younger brother before I saw it in myself. The malady is mercurial, and can present in different ways in different patients, but there are, I have observed, some frequent and common effects of S.A.D. With my brother, I first saw a combination of anxiety and irritability that increases in severity during the course of a single Saints game, and is compounded as the Saints season progresses. My brother, whom we will here call “Patient E,” seems to be generally fine during the first half of a game, but after halftime the disorder ratchets up and results in a kind of football-related anxiety attack that often renders him unable to not just watch the game, but to even be in the company of other human beings. Basically, if the clock is running out and our boys in black and gold aren’t leading by at least three touchdowns, Patient E will begin to pace, chew his fingernails, and eventually retreat to his car, where he listens to the rest of the game on the radio, swaddled in seething solitude.

This, in my scientific observation, has become a core-defining characteristic of Saints Affective Disorder. I have known one SAD-suffering fan who, during tense games, retreats into her bedroom, throws a blanket over her head, and only periodically peeks out from her self-imposed crocheted cocoon in order to check the score, after which she runs back into the bedroom to secure herself in that dark, fuzzy cave of safety and comfort.

Another characteristic common to those who suffer from SAD is a little more alarming: Pure, unfiltered rage, especially when it comes to questionable refereeing and the inevitability of the Saints once again managing to (figuratively) shoot themselves in the foot with asinine penalties, botched kicks and woeful turnovers. One sufferer, a friend who we will refer to as “Patient M,” is a sweet, happy-go-lucky sort who is, in almost every regard, a kind and decent person. Unless the Saints are losing to someone like the Atlanta Falcons, in which case she transforms into a seething cauldron of anger and misery. Patient M., in these cases, is not above throwing things at the television screen. Her friends and I decided, at one point, to supply her with a bowl of marshmallows so she wouldn't cause any real property damage. Our refrain in such times has been, “time to break out the black and gold Xanax.” Saints Affective Disorder is very real, my friends.

And yet, as formidable a disease as SAD might be, there are avenues of treatment, if not an outright cure. The only way to prevent the disease completely would be for the New Orleans Saints to win every single game by a three-touchdown margin that begins, preferably, at some point in the first quarter. This, of course, is unfair to both the SAD patient as well as the Saints, not to mention basically impossible.

As for treatment, well, one might consider just not watching Saints games. But in my expert opinion this is a terrible way to treat this disease, as the fate of its sufferers is intertwined with the fate of the team, an inextricable relationship that borders somewhere between psychopathological and symbiotic. Those affected by SAD would never, in a million years, consider abandoning their boys. So the most efficacious course of treatment has less to do with cutting out the source of the disease (ie. Saints fandom) than alleviating its symptoms. This can be accomplished with the liberal application of two very easy to find local remedies: food and beer.

In my course of study, I’ve noticed that more alarming bouts of SAD can be cut off at the pass by the steady ingestion of Abita Amber, in combination with gumbo, jambalaya, po-boys, muffalettas, Zapp’s potato chips, and, in severely acute cases, Popeyes fried chicken with biscuits and red beans. If you suffer from SAD, ask your doctor if beer and New Orleans cuisine is right for you.

This Saints season, I urge all within the Who Dat nation to be aware of Saints Affective Disorder, and to be kind to those who might suffer from its sturdy grasp. Make sure to have plenty of cold brew and hot food handy on Sundays, and never forget:

We won the Superbowl once. It can happen again. Take care of one another, friends. And Who Dat.

 


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.