Football Urban Legends Revealed #17

This is the seventeenth in a series of examinations of football-related legends and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of all the previous football legends.

In honor of the new NFL season, here’s a special edition taking a look at legends related to the 2010 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints!

Let’s begin!

FOOTBALL LEGEND: The Saints kicker who holds the NFL record for longest field goal inspired the NFL to come up with a new rule because of the special shoes he wore due to having no toes on his kicking foot!


One of the most memorable Saints victories in their early years occurred on November 8, 1970, in a game against the Detroit Lions.

The Lions were leading 17-16 with just a few seconds left on the game clock. The Saints seemed well out of field goal range, as Saints kicker Tom Dempsey would have to hit a 63-yard field goal to win the game.

But that’s exactly what Dempsey did, giving the Saints a nearly impossible 19-17 victory! The kick set a new record for longest field goal, breaking the SEVENTEEN year record held by the Colts’ Bert Rechichar, whose record field goal was 56 yards!

Now this should have been a perfect period in Dempsey’s life, especially considering the obstacles he had to face in his life. You see, Dempsey was born without any toes on his right foot or fingers on his right hand.

Here he is in action…

You can see his hands in that photo clearly.

And here is the special shoe Dempsey would use…

While you would think that this would be a happy occasion, a player overcoming adversity to set a record (a record that STILL stands, 40 years later, although Denver kicker Jason Elam TIED the record in 1998), some owners took issue with the special shoe Dempsey used. Could it perhaps be HELPING him too much? Some even theorized that he had special steel plating or something like that assisting his kicks (he did not).

So after debating it for a few years, in 1977, the NFL instituted a new rule that stated “”any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.” The rule is commonly referred to as the “Tom Dempsey Rule.”

While Dempsey might not have exactly gotten the best response to having an NFL record, he has an NFL RULE named after him, so that’s something, I guess.

FOOTBALL LEGEND: The Saints got their name because they were founded on All Saint’s Day.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Dave Dixon just recently passed away in August of 2010. Dixon was a major part, heck, you could say he was the driving force (his obituaries say it) of the Saints getting a professional football franchise, just as he helped get the Superdome built. Dixon is all the way in the right of this photo of then-Saints owner John W. Mecom Jr (on the left) and then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle (in the middle).

New Orleans getting a football team was announced on November 1, 1966. As you might well know, November 1 is a Catholic holiday known as All Saints Day and is a big deal in New Orleans (which has a large Catholic population). So as the story goes, the team got its name (which was not official until January of 1967) due to the team getting announced on All Saints Day.

Now, this is a bit tricky, because clearly, yes, the holiday DOES play a role in the name of the team. But just what role it has is the question.

Dixon had thought of the name “Saints” years earlier, when hearing the famous song “When the Saints Come Marching In.” Dixon had the name of the team already in place when they got the news that New Orleans was going to get an NFL franchise – news that the owners got about a week BEFORE the announcement. Dixon’s idea was to push the announcement back until All Saints Day. So while yes, the holiday did play a role, it played the role of confirming the name Dixon already had in mind for the team.

Dixon even went to Archbishop Philip M. Hannan for permission to call the team the Saints. That likely happened after the announcement, though (Dixon never specifically said either way, but I presume that was more of a matter of him just thinking it was clear).

By the way, there actually was a public vote over the name – although that was likely more of a formality than anything, as Saints had already been floated out there so the public latched on to it quickly.

So I think enough of the Saints’ name came from stuff other than All Saints Day that I think it is okay to go with a false on this one.

FOOTBALL LEGEND: The Saints field caught fire in the middle of a game!

STATUS: Basically True

On November 10, 1991, the Saints were hosting the San Francisco 49ers.

At halftime, there was a fireworks display inside the Superdome.

As the third quarter got underway, it turned out that the fireworks had set a small fire on the rafters of the Superdome. A valiant worker was sent out to extinguish the flames with a blanket…

Eventually, he seems to have put out the fire…

However, NO! A piece of the blanket (or whatever) falls from the rafters!!!

The field already was getting rained on from above with cinder, but now, a fire actually started at midfield!!!

The Saints (who were deep into Niner territory) actually tried to keep playing all the way up until the field caught fire. At that point, the officials called a timeout.

During the timeout, the flame was FINALLY put out with a bucket of Gatordade…

It sure is lucky that the Saints finally got to (and WON) the most recent Super Bowl, because otherwise, stuff like the fire was liable to give them a complex about the luck of the team!!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

-Brian Cronin

One Response to “Football Urban Legends Revealed #17”

  1. Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders tied Dempsey and Elam’s record in the first game of the 2011 season with a 63-yard field goal against the Broncos.

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