It’s Tuesday morning and the New Orleans Saints are back at work after a hard-fought playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Shayne Graham gets out of his car and begins to walk towards the facility. After a minute, he’s joined by punter Thomas Morstead.
Thomas Morstead: What’s up, game-winner?
Shayne Graham: Hey man. You ready?
Morstead: Yeah, I’m gonna kick the shit out of the Seahawks.
They both laugh because they know punters don’t do shit.
Graham: It’ll definitely be a tough one.
Morstead: Definitely, but I feel pretty confident. We’ve got a good team and the best motivator in the business. He’ll find some way to gear us up.
Graham: Yeah, I’ve actually been meaning to talk to somebody about that…
Graham slows down and Morstead does as well. They stop about twenty feet from the door.
Graham: Maybe it’s because I’ve only been here a few weeks, but…don’t you think Coach Payton’s, um…“motivational tactics” are a little weird?
Morstead: Weird? How do you mean?
Graham: He always does these supposedly symbolic gestures to try to light a fire under our ass, but sometimes it just seems like he likes being dramatic. Like he missed his calling as a stage director or something.
Morstead: I’d watch the shit out of a Payton-directed Phantom of the Opera.
Graham: You joke, but it’s like he gets off on it. He buried your newspaper clippings from the Super Bowl win to teach you to move forward. He does these little tweaks to improve morale. He turns every meeting into the last five minutes of a Full House episode. It’s weird.
Morstead: Nah, man, he just changed the Gatorade flavor and gave us Popeyes because he wanted us to be comfortable. Winning football games is about feeling good, and Popeyes makes you feel good.
Morstead: Until it becomes lava and explodes out of your ass, at least.
Graham: Maybe you’re right.
Morstead: I’m definitely right, I didn’t get to celebrate until after midnight because I was leaking Popeyes juice for a few hours.
Graham: I mean about Payton. Maybe he’s just trying to help the team.
They walk into the facility and head to the meeting room, where most of the players are already milling about. Shayne and Thomas shake hands with a couple of the guys, then take seats towards the back. After a few seconds, Sean Payton walks in wearing a full Spartan suit of armor, complete with shield and sword.
Shayne looks at Thomas with his eyebrows raised.
Morstead: What? Costumes never hurt anybody.
Sean Payton: SPARTA!
His shouts startle a couple of people; Zach Strief picks his head up off of his hands, his dream ruined.
Payton: I’m sure you’ve all seen the film 300 based on Frank Miller’s amazing graphic novel. You remember the odds being stacked against them. An army against 300 men. And what happened to those 300 men?
Marques Colston raises his hand.
Marques Colston: They died, coach.
Payton lowers his sword.
Colston: Yeah, coach. They were outnumbered one thousand to one. There were only 300 of them. They fought bravely and died. Gave hope to the Spartan army and eventually other armies were able to ward off the Persian threat.
Kenny Stills: How you know all that shit?
Colston: Hofstra education.
Payton: Yes, well…then we may die in Seattle, but we will show heart and give power to those who come after us, like the mighty Spartans!
Mark Ingram: Wait, so you’re saying we’re going to lose, but someone is going to come behind us and beat them? What good does that do us? We’ll be sitting at home watching the Super Bowl!
Shayne Graham looks at Morstead.
Graham: Seriously? You don’t think any of this is strange?
Morstead: The dude won us a Super Bowl. He can do what he wants.
Sean Payton takes off his armor and is standing in his undershirt and boxers, but is still holding the sword.
Payton: Forget the Spartans. That movie sucked anyway. Let’s focus on something that will REALLY get your attention.
The players murmur and look around at each other as Coach Payton drops the sword and grabs a box that was sitting under the table. The box is covered by a sheet.
Payton: People say this week’s battle is already lost. That we don’t stand a chance. That we’ll get killed like we did last time. But those people are forgetting one very important thing.
He pulls the sheet. Sitting in the clear box is a pigeon and a bible. He lifts the bible.
Payton: We. Are. SAINTS.
He raises the bible higher.
Payton: And Saints kill Seahawks.
He bashes the pigeon several times with the bible. The pigeon squawks and feathers fly. Eventually, the pigeon dies.
Payton: Any questions?
Drew Brees: Coach, you just killed a pigeon. Why a pigeon?
Pierre Thomas: Probably because we don’t have Seahawks down here.
Luke McCown: Is a seahawk even a real thing?
Colston: A seahawk is an osprey. It’s the provincial bird of Nova Scotia.
Stills: Man, you hella smart.
Payton: I wasn’t going to find a goddamn osprey down here. It was a fucking Seahawk. And you killed it. Do you know why?
Graham: Are you serious?
Payton: BECAUSE YOU ARE SAINTS!
Graham: This is actually working?
Morstead: WE’RE SAINTS!
Payton: WHO ARE WE?
They all start shouting. A few players run up and begin hitting the dead pigeon with the bible. Akiem Hicks grabs the sword and stabs the pigeon because he’s fucking insane.
Graham: We’re going to get killed on Saturday.