Hard Times, Big Easy Reading

Sean Payton and Drew Brees reveal the struggles behind the Saints' rise
September 12, 2010

Sean Payton and Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans weeks apart in 2006. Neither sprinted there. Payton had lost out on the head-coaching position in Green Bay ("I wanted to cry," says Payton, a Midwesterner) while Brees and his surgically repaired shoulder had been nudged aside in San Diego, where the Chargers decided to build around Philip Rivers.

Four years later, each has not only a Super Bowl ring but also a New York Times bestseller. In their enjoyably touching books about their respective journeys to the Vince Lombardi Trophy, there's a common theme: Payton and Brees depict their arrivals in post-Katrina New Orleans as providential.

The coach's Home Team, written with Ellis Henican, has some hilarious flourishes. Payton recalls his interview process in 2004 with Oakland's Al Davis, who for dinner brought in McDonald's cheeseburgers and KFC coleslaw. "He was a sloppy eater," writes Payton. (He turned Davis down to remain in Dallas as an assistant.) More soberly, Payton details his transition to a city devastated by the nation's worst natural disaster. He had to cobble together a staff knowing that "there weren't a lot of experienced NFL coaches just itching to come to New Orleans." He also had to remake a team for which losing had been a birthright.

Payton's most important signing was that of Brees, whose Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity, written with Chris Fabry, chronicles the quarterback's winding path from an operating table (he took seven scope holes and 11 anchors in his throwing shoulder after an injury in 2005) to Super Bowl MVP. Brees talks of learning from the setbacks in his life—a torn ACL in high school, a tough loss to Notre Dame while at Purdue, even a clumsy first meeting with his future wife, Brittany. In somber tones he discusses losing his mother, Mina, to suicide during training camp before the Saints' championship run and acknowledges that the two had barely spoken during the previous eight years. Among those at her funeral was Payton. In time, both men would realize that as much as their victories helped heal New Orleans, the strength of New Orleanians helped heal them too.

TALES OF THE TANDEM

Payton's Home Team (three weeks on the Times bestseller list) and Brees's Coming Back Stronger (seven weeks) each describes a circuitous but ultimately fortuitous trip to New Orleans.

Blowing: Smoked

Our long international nightmare appears to be over. Here's a sound-wave-inspired look at the brief run of the vuvuzela

- POPULARITY +

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

May 12

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June 11

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June 13

Lionel Messi, after edging Nigeria 1--0: "It's like being deaf"

June 14

FIFA prez Sepp Blatter stands pat via Twitter: No ban coming

June 16

Earplug retailers approve: Sheppard Medical sells more than 400,000 pairs during Cup

June 19

Marlins hand out 15,000 horns and regret it as noise causes game-costing lineup miscue

June 25

Banning bandwagon, all aboard: No vuvuzelas at SEC football games...

June 30

... or at UFC events (says Dana White, "I'd rather let Brock [Lesnar] punch me") ...

August 2

... or at FIBA basketball world championship

August 5

Silverdome authorities ignore fan pole, showing 66% opposition; O.K. use at soccer game. (They flip-flop a day later, ban vuvuzelas)

August 12

Rapper Wyclef Jean features horns in campaign video for Haitian presidency

August 20

Wyclef's bid rejected

September 1

UEFA bans 'em at Euro, Champions League soccer

PHOTOLAURENCE GRIFFITHS/GETTY IMAGES (VUVUZELA) TWO PHOTOS CHART

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)