This Saturday, Super Bowl Eve, new members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced in New York. Hopefully, Morten Andersen will be in that number and will go marching into the Hall as a Saint.
Although he had just as brilliant a career after his mesmerizing stint in The Big Easy, his days as a Falcon, Giant, Chief and Viking just don't tug at his heart strings the way his time here and us folks from way down yonder do. Atlanta may have Coca Cola, but it doesn't have Mardi Gras, gumbo, red beans and rice or just about anything else found on the bayou. When he was here, 'The Great Dane' enjoyed it all.
In addition to being one of the city's most eligible bachelors and just about every other title, grand marshal, spokesman, or whatever he was asked to be, Morten also took a shot at being an actor. I should know. I still have the lump on my head he gave me during the show.
Once upon a time, there was a dinner theatre in Slidell known as Minacapelli's and it was run by a cast of characters lead by the biggest character of them all, Bob Kearney. The food and shows were ok and the water tasted like rotten eggs, but the people came week after week. Then, to draw even bigger crowds, Bob convinced Morten Andersen to do a production of the 1954 play, "The Tender Trap." I have no idea what Bob used to blackmail Morty, but there he was on the boards in Slidell.
In an unlikely pairing of long time buddies, the Saints kicker was paired with longtime TV personality, Bob Krieger, and veteran actress Sandy Shilstone, wife of fitness guru Mackie. Within hours of the show being announced and despite the egg water, the entire run of the show was sold out with an expanding waiting list.
Late in the run, an actor had to leave the show and I was asked to replace him. I played hard to get and uninterested...for about 30 seconds before accepting the gig. We rehearsed once together and I was impressed with Andersen's serious attitude about the show. I should have known then what I later learned about him. He doesn't do anything halfway. He is the consummate professional.
We had this fight scene in which Morten had to push my character onto a sofa. Well, we didn't really practice the push into the sofa and, maybe he pushed too hard or I was too light, or whatever, but my head hit full force into the wooden rear of the sofa. The audience roared with laughter as I winced in pain and stumbled for my next few lines. I exited the stage at the end of the scene, sat backstage and had a snack.
During the break between acts, Bob and Morten came and asked if I was ok. I assured them that I was fine and ready to start the show. They wanted to run lines but I was confused about why they wanted to run third act lines.
Although kickers are rarely known as hitters, future Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen had delivered a hit on me that gave me a concussion. I had no recollection of what had transpired earlier in the evening. I finished the show with the guidance of Sandy Shilstone and was given a ride home by Andersen.
Morten and I remained friends through the years. I arranged comedy nights at his Champions restaurant, helped develop his TV show. He reminded me of the knot on the back of my head.
On the phone today, before discussing where and when we'd connect in New York, he said he'd love to see me but added, "It's been a long time since I gave anyone a concussion in a dinner theatre show."
Like everyone in the Who Dat Nation, if I were voting Saturday, he'd have as many votes as I could stuff into the ballot box.
Good luck Morty!
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