It’s late June in the NFL. Minicamps have broken, and teams have dispersed for some R&R before training camps open late next month. So it’s time for something different: 1967 Week at The MMQB. Join us as we look at what the game, the players and the culture of professional football were like a half-century ago. First up, the debut of the New Orleans Saints.
John Mecom looked around at the chaos that engulfed him, at the 50-odd players on the Yankee Stadium field, their fists flying wildly, at the fans pouring down from the stands, legs lurching over the railing to join the ruckus, and the owner of the New Orleans Saints thought to himself, Damn, I probably shouldn’t be out here.
It was fun, for a couple of minutes. Mecom had rushed to the aid of the felled Doug Atkins, who had three Giants players whaling on him. But now Atkins was on his feet, and Mecom couldn’t quite figure out why the 39-year-old defensive end kept tossing his helmet to him. So Mecom just kept throwing it back, like they were playing a game of catch in the middle of a war zone.
“He was trying to tell me to put the helmet on to protect myself,” Mecom, 77, says now. “But I didn’t understand that.”
Had Mecom just wanted to be a fan—had he wanted to sit in the stands—he would have bought a ticket for six dollars. But he didn’t. In December of the previous year he’d paid the $8.5 million expansion fee for the newly minted NFL team in New Orleans. At 26, he was younger than most of the…
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