If you're not a regular reader of NOLA Defender, you're missing out big time. We here at moosedenied are big fans. I mean, Dead Huey Long and Ian Hoch's NoDef Numbers! How can you go wrong?

A while back, NoDef contacted moosdenied about maybe writing an occasional guest column. We were honored, despite the fact that they won't let us say fuck. It took a while, too long, but unless they think it sucks, we'll be making our NoDef debut here shortly. I hope they don't mind if I go ahead and post it here too. You know, just in case they do in fact conclude that it sucks. Here it is, exactly as I've submitted it to their editors

We're all familiar with the concept of "locker room chemistry" in sports. For the last 5+ years, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton and Drew Brees have consistently trumpeted its importance. And all indications are that they've done a tremendous job of building and maintaining positive chemistry in the Saints' locker room. Few will deny that it's been a big part of their sustained success over the last 5+ years.

As Saints fans, we have our own version of locker room chemistry. For the most part, I think we deserve our reputation as one of the most devoted, passionate and – yes – unified fanbases in sports. Most of the time, we downright love one another. We high five complete strangers on the street, just because there's a fleur on their shirt or hat. We shout "Who Dat!" at one another across a crowded airport terminal in some other city. "Fellow Saints fan, 'nuff said."

But we do squabble. Heck, sometimes it seems like we look for things to argue about. Even now, bring up the subject of Ricky Williams or Aaron Brooks among fellow Saints fans, and it's just a matter of time until the conversation gets… let's go with "spirited." Probably always will.

Two seasons ago, even as the Saints were winning their first Super Bowl (high five!) and giving us our ultimate Saints-high, our locker room chemistry as a fanbase was being tested on a daily basis as we fans were squabbling amongst ourselves over two key contributors to that amazing championship run. I'm of course referring to Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey.

They were two of the most popular, yet polarizing, figures in recent franchise history. As popular as both players were, they also both had more than their share of so-called "haters." A lot of it was about their performance on the field, but a ton of it was about "likeability" and other such intangibles. Some folks thought they could do no wrong, others thought they could do no right.

And as joyful and exciting and just plain fun as the 2009 season was, the interminable squabbling over Bush's and Shockey's relative merits as players and people was the proverbial turd in the punchbowl. It was screwing up our chemistry as a fanbase. It was a constant drag on what otherwise was the greatest 6-month party of our lives.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Saints will win a Super Bowl with their 2011 counterparts, Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. But this much is certain, they've done wonders for our locker room chemistry as Saints fans. As polarizing as Bush and Shockey were, for any number of reasons both reasonable and overly-emotional, Sproles and Graham are every bit as unifying.

I mean, is there one among us who doesn't absolutely love both of these guys? I sure haven't run across one. And it stands to reason, because what's not to love?

Sure, a lot of it is because on the field, Sproles and Graham are what Bush and Shockey were supposed to be.

That's not intended to be a slight on Bush and Shockey. Those two guys were as crucial as anybody in creating that "critical mass" which allowed the offense to basically re-write the franchise record book, to be the best offense in the league (by a lot) and to bring home the Lombardi at long last.

But Reggie Bush was supposed to lead the league in all-purpose yards. Darren Sproles does lead the league in all-purpose yards.

Shockey was supposed to be the franchise's first 1000-yard tight end. By Monday morning, Jimmy Graham will be the franchise's first 1000-yard tight end. With four regular season games to spare.

And odds are that by January, Graham will have set the new single-season record for most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. For crying out loud, Graham's 957 receiving yards through 11 games puts him on pace to fall a mere 7 yards short of Joe Horn's franchise record for receiving yards in a season (1399) and only 1 catch short of Marques Colston's franchise record (98) for receptions in a season. Best tight end EVER!

But it's about more than that, isn't it? Heaven knows we love our Saints, but it's only natural that we love some of them more than others. And the determining factor often has little to do with their performance on the field. We love our Steve Gleasons, our Sammy Knights, our Deuce McAllisters. Always have, always will. It's just who we are.

Graham and Sproles fit that profile to a tee. No mindbogglingly stupid faux pas on Twitter. No daily appearances on the online celebrity gossip tabloids. No rumors of acting like a jerk at autograph-signing events. No jet-setting in Hollywood or Vegas while the rest of the team is working. No attention-seeking celebutante on-again/off-again girlfriends. No reality tee vee show appearances.

It's no coincidence that, with these guys, you've gotta search far and wide to find a single so-called "hater." There's just nothing to "hate on."

Bush and Shockey were hater magnets, on the field and off. Graham and Sproles haven't just exceeded everyone's most wildly-optimistic expectations on the field, they also don't constantly annoy us with all kinds of other stuff. They're our kind of guys. The kind of guys who'd let you buy them a Peacemaker at Domilise's. And then split it with you. And then insist on paying for it. And then bookmark your blog and follow you on Twitter.

As much as these two guys have upgraded the team on the field, they've upgraded the heck out of our locker room chemistry as a fanbase. And as far as I'm concerned, the latter is deserving of every bit as much praise as the former.

Bless You, Boys. You may both be relative newcomers, but by golly, we already love ya just a little bit extra. Because you deserve it.

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