All things to those who wait
By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Dec. 22, 2000
As sports fans go, you've probably heard the phrase, "I've been a fan of this team since Day One."
Well for one Meridian resident, truer words have never been spoken.
Al Yochim III has been a New Orleans Saints season ticket holder since 1967, the first year of the franchise.
That's 34 years for those keeping score, and given the fact New Orleans is best known for their storied losing history rather than being a perennial winner, that's patience.
Yochim's father, now deceased, was a native of the Crescent City. "We still have a house in New Orleans, back then it was right behind the old Tulane Stadium, where the Saints played before moving into the Superdome.
It seems after suffering through some 30 years of losing, with only a smattering of winning seasons and no playoff victories, Yochim and others like him who have kept their season tickets since 67 will be rewarded.
Not only will Yochim's team, arguably the strongest in history, likely host a first-round playoff game, but Yochim himself will be honored along with other charter ticket holders, during a special pregame ceremony in the end zone.
It is a special recognition promotion the Saints administration enacted this season as a way to honor those faithful fans who have had season tickets during every year of the franchise. At each home game 50-100 members get recognized on the field approximately one hour before kickoff. All honorees will be awarded a gift at some point during the ceremony.
Christmas Eve's tilt with the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams marks Al's turn.
In addition to being honored on Christmas Eve, he will see an old friend in former Meridian High standout and current Rams defensive back Dexter McCleon. Yochim coached McCleon years ago in Dixie Pre-majors baseball and the two have remained friends.
Yochim said in the beginning his father started out with 12 season tickets, but over the years the number has dwindled down to just his pair.
And eight times a season, Yochim and his wife Becky, make the 195 mile, three-hour trek down I-59 to see their team.
This year, Yochim again has hope that he and other longtime Saints faithful will finally get to witness that elusive playoff win.
Most importantly, Yochim said, this team believes in themselves.
And coming from someone that has seen the gamut in 34 years, he ought to know.
Yochim also said that while not many Meridianites regularly make the journey to New Orleans, Meridian is definitely a town that supports the Saints.
Yochim attended Ole Miss as well, a freshman during Manning's junior year.
But to be a lifelong fan of a team known throughout the sports world as "lovable losers" or "the never was" hasn't been easy. Many fans eventually give up thinking a playoff win, much less a Superbowl, will never come.
But with all Saints fans, hope springs eternal and with only the second NFC West title in hand and the playoffs looming, Yochim and his friends and family once again have that hope.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.