NEW ORLEANS, SEPT. 10 -- Quarterback Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers may dominate the Superdome.
But if they dominate the New Orleans Saints, it's not by much, which had the locals reaching for the local remedy -- voodoo.
Going into tonight's game, Montana was 7-0 in the Superdome, the last one having nothing to do with the Saints. It was the 55-10 blowout of Denver in last January's Super Bowl. And San Francisco had beaten New Orleans four straight times overall and three straight times in New Orleans.
But the past two seasons, they've been very lucky to get out of New Orleans with a victory -- 34-33 in 1988 and 24-20 last year in a game tainted by some questionable officiating.
So some people in New Orleans have taken to consulting voodoo priests, a respectable practice in a city where voodoo has been practiced since the 1700s.
This year, the priest is one Chango Oshun, who says of Montana:
"This man has a nasty attitude. A very nasty attitude. But he can be handled."
Oshun goes on to tell a local columnist that his cara shells predicted a victory by the Saints. What voodoo practitioner in New Orleans would predict otherwise?
For the Saints, that's as good as any method of stopping San Francisco. Because all the signs have been against them.
The Saints and 49ers also opened the 1988 season at the Superdome -- an old-fashioned shootout between quarterbacks Montana and Bobby Hebert. It was marked by three third-quarter touchdown passes by Montana, who then retired to the sideline with a sore elbow. Two touchdowns went to John Frank, the tight end who retired after that season to attend medical school.
Last season, the pivotal play was a 50-yard touchdown pass from Montana to Jerry Rice. As Rice reached the 2-yard line, he juggled the ball, dropped it and it rolled out of the end zone.
The ball should have gone to the Saints at the 20 with no score. But the officials ruled it a touchdown and the replay official wasn't watching. By the time the mistake was detected, the 49ers already had kicked the extra point, meaning any replay was negated, because it doesn't apply if a subsequent play has been run.
It's been like that for the Saints since they became competitive three years ago. That's when they finished 12-3 for their first winning season in history ././. and it was good only for second place in the NFC West behind San Francisco's 13-2. In fact, over the past three years, the Saints' 31-16 regular season record is second only to San Francisco's 37-10.
Still, New Orleans had won only one of six during that period -- 26-24 at Candlestick Park on Morten Andersen's last-second field goal.