saints (n.) - NFL franchise presently based in New Orleans; boondoggle (n.) - an unnecessary or wasteful project or activity; saintsdoggle (n.) - the Saints' potential relocation situation in New Orleans, and the resulting boondoggle by Louisiana to keep the team from leaving

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Breaking down Tagliabue comments; Force majeure?; 'S.A. Saints' headline anger

Given that the Saints played a so-called "home" opener last night on a heavily-publicized edition of Monday Night Football, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was the target of questions regarding the team's future.

Before kickoff, Tagliabue indicated he will be in attendance at the Saints-Dolphins game at LSU's Tiger Stadium on October 30. Because it doesn't appear that the Superdome will be operable by next season, his intentions are to initiate discussions with Tom Benson and "people at LSU" about the possibility of the Saints playing all their home games in Baton Rouge in 2006.

However, Tagliabue was guarded about a long-term commitment to keeping the Saints in New Orleans. According to this AP article, Tagliabue said, "I haven't gotten beyond worrying about 2005. Obviously, the biggest issues in New Orleans now are...How do they rebuild the city? What's the shape of the city? What kind of businesses do they want there? What kind of a population base do they want there? All of those issues are going to have to be addressed."

Tagliabue further noted in the same AP article that the NFL would like to have some role in rebuilding the city if the above questions were answered satisfactorily. "It would be our intention to have a seat at the table in those discussions, as appropriate," said Tagliabue. "But to start speculation about the future right now when all those questions have to be addressed first is kind of pointless."

Additional information from Tagliabue comes from this San Antonio Express-News story by Mike Finger. In it, the NFL commish expresses his wonder of what kind of city New Orleans will be post-Katrina: "There are a lot of options. Should it be a tourist destination? Should it be a full-fledged industrial city, building on the oil and gas industry or its position as a port at the mouth of the Mississippi? There are so many questions."

Tagilabue's concerns are warranted. He wants to know what the long-term future of the city will hold, so that he and the NFL can determine whether the Saints should stay or go. A closer look at his comments reveals where the lines are drawn:

- "What kind of businesses do they want there?" Corporations that can afford expensive suites and hire a lot of employees to buy tickets and merchandise, or mom-and-pops that can't?
- "What kind of population base do they want there?" A smaller population means a smaller television market, which means lower attendance at games and less ad revenue.
- "How do they rebuild the city?" Will the Superdome be torn down, and if so, will a new stadium be a priority?
- "Should it be a tourist destination?" If so, see Orlando or Las Vegas. No NFL teams there.
- "Should it be a full-fledged industrial city?" This would be beneficial to the NFL, as it would ensure a population with enough of a base to support the Saints.

It's evident from these comments that Tagliabue is laying the groundwork that the NFL wants to remain in New Orleans - if it can. On one side, it indicates a willingness to not abandon the city and its fans. On the other, it could mean the league is providing a foundation to say that while it wanted to return, the business condition of the city post-Katrina simply did not warrant an NFL team to remain.

One final note: Tagliabue is quoted in this article by the Shreveport Times' Glenn Guilbeau, regarding the Saints playing in Baton Rouge this season, as saying, "We wanted to make it 1,000 percent clear that the New Orleans Saints are committed to Louisiana, to New Orleans and their fans."

If the team does stay, it is noted in the above Shreveport Times article that an insurance policy covers the Superdome for up to $600 million. In other words, this new stadium could become a reality - if there are businesses and fans in place to support the team.

So it appears the NFL's good intentions are there. We shall see whether the business landscape will allow the good intentions to come to fruition.



The aforementioned piece by Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times reveals that legal interpretation of the Saints' contract with the state of Louisiana could make things a lot easier for Benson to take the Saints from New Orleans.

The article points out contract language that effectively provides that given the extensive damage sustained by the Superdome, the terms of the contract could be null.

In other words, Benson could take the Saints to wherever he wants without being required to pay an exit clause penalty of $81 million - the total the state has provided to him since the contract was entered into by both parties.

When asked about these terms, Benson seemed to express some exasperation. "You're way ahead of me," he's quoted as saying in the article. "I don't know anything about that or what we're going to do about all of that. I don't want to leave Louisiana, OK? Otherwise, we wouldn't be playing four games here."

However, the same article notes that one LSU official stated Tagliabue "made the Saints play in Tiger Stadium because Benson did not want to."

It appears thus far that the NFL wants the Saints to stay in New Orleans if at all possible, to avoid the very ugly p.r. hit it would take if it removed the team from New Orleans in the near future, while Benson seems to want to get the team out of New Orleans as soon as possible.


The San Antonio Express-News rightfully received a lot of backlash for running a recent story, noted on my site here (about two-thirds of the way down), with the headline, "S.A. Saints tickets are a big, easy sell."

The paper should receive criticism. The "S.A. Saints" headline was a direct slap in the face to New Orleans, and shrouds the city's generosity to the Big Easy with an air of vulturism.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Benson: Saints wins mean more than donated money for relief effort

Okay, so I was wrong. Tom Benson has spoken recently.

Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut.

This comes from an excellent piece entitled "Save the Saints" by Sports Illustrated's Mark Bechtel:
"I can't help but wonder what the hell is wrong with Saints owner Tom Benson...

[O]n Monday, at a press conference to announce the Saints would play three games in San Antonio, the mayor, Phil Hardberger, beamed that the games would bring the city a $9 million windfall. He was asked if any of that would be donated to relief efforts in New Orleans.

His response: 'That would be the Saints' call.'

So Benson was asked the same question. And here's what he said:

'Well, we've already established a relief fund through the league and the Red Cross ... [The Saints] winning football games is going to mean more to the relief effort in the Gulf South than money can ever do. You don't know how that win [23-20 over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday] lifted their spirits so much.'"
Isn't that a bit of a stretch? Everyone, call off your Red Cross donations and just give your money to the Saints. Those people suffering in the New Orleans/Gulf South region need football wins, not financial help.

Which provides insight into Benson's reasoning for wanting to keep in place a bum deal for Louisiana that forced the state to use much-needed taxpayer funds to line his golden pockets. Football wins mean more than education, housing, health care, and so on - at least so long as it helps his own bottom line.

Now it means more than helping fund the relief efforts?

Someone should tell him that these are people, real people, affected by real events. This is not some mark in the L column. It's one of the worst disasters in history. Houses have been destroyed and jobs ruined. Many have lost everything they had. Some people are still separated from their families. Sure, football is a great diversion, and Saints wins do mean a lot in these trying times, but come on, Tom. Get real. Wake up.

And that's what the hell is wrong with him. He just doesn't get it. This comment might be more classless and disgraceful than any other he's ever made. And that's saying something.

Besides that, it's too bad the Saints winning football games for its Louisiana fans doesn't mean more than money to Benson. Apparently nothing does. Otherwise they'd have won more than one playoff game in their history.

So, it goes without saying (or debate) that Bechtel's idiot of the week award also rightfully went to Benson: "I don't know that anyone's going to out-idiot Tom Benson at this point."

Benson silence deafening; Season ticket holders kept in dark; A different FAITH in San Antonio

In spite of the optimism expressed in my last few posts, and in spite of hope that the Saints will be a part of a rebuilt New Orleans, team owner Tom Benson has not exactly been reassuring.

AP columnist Tim Dahlberg points out in a recent column that "Benson has given New Orleans every reason to be nervous about the future of the team. He kept silent for two weeks, then said little when questioned Monday."

Dahlberg compares that to Hornets owner George Shinn, who is quoted in the same article as saying, "Our objective is not to abandon ship here or to get out of dodge. Our plan is to hope and pray New Orleans rebuilds." The Hornets are even holding out hope of playing some games at the New Orleans Arena sometime later in the upcoming NBA season, according to today's Times-Picayune.

Meanwhile, Benson is hamming it up in San Antonio. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the team is seeking 100 corporate sponsorships in San Antonio. Benson also has been quoted as saying it is "of most importance" to sell out the 65,000-seat Alamodome for each of the three games that will be played there this fall. San Antonio officials have echoed that sentiment.

In the meantime, the Express-News also reports that a promise to the some 35,000 Saints season-ticket holders that they will have tickets available to them at the Alamodome has been reneged. Quoting the article, "a Saints official said the club will not put aside 35,000 Alamodome tickets for season-ticket holders. A source said the number of tickets will probably be significantly lower."

This coincides with an article Wednesday in the Biloxi Sun-Herald, which pointed out that Benson has left Saints fans in the dark. The story, by Brandon Bickerstaff, notes that "Fox Sports' Web site had reported since Sept. 5 that the team had no intention of offering refunds to season-ticket holders."

In other words, a mostly-silent-to-Louisiana Tom Benson seems to be shoving aside his past supporters to make way for the new.

Which is surprising, given that four Saints home games will be played in 92,000-seat Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, home of many displaced New Orleanians. (Maybe, if Tiger Stadium isn't sold out, Benson can point to it as a lack of local support to justify moving the team?)

As pointed out by Bickerstaff, the Saints organization has made some very close new friends in San Antonio.

The Express-News even has gone so far as to call the team the "S.A. Saints" in a story headline.

It shows that as hospitable as San Antonio has been to the team, many there are making strong efforts to keep the Saints from returning to New Orleans.

If that happens, San Antonio will call it a great victory for the city.

I'll call it a case of the opportunistic preying on the weak. Hasn't New Orleans been looted enough already?

Not that Benson is doing anything to dissuade it.

Attendees at a recent Saints support gathering featuring Benson were provided with 2005 "FAITH" bumper stickers. The stickers make no reference to New Orleans, and represent a different kind of FAITH for San Antonio locals.

Reflecting that newfound FAITH, the San Antonio Express-News further reports that "many civic leaders privately believe the Saints will make their stay in San Antonio permanent."

At any rate, successfully laying the groundwork for such a move, while New Orleans is under the circumstances it is in, would be a shameful achievement well beyond that of Jim Irsay.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Saints WR Stallworth sends positive message

Saints wide receiver Donte Stallworth was quoted in a recent USA Today Sports Weekly article by writer Chris Colston, entitled "Saints helping New Orleans crack a smile," as follows:
"Will we ever go back? Yeah. That's the plan. The city of San Antonio is great, but we're the New Orleans Saints. Whenever things get rebuilt, we're ready to represent our city."
Now, if only Tom Benson would come out, stand up, and make a similar statement...

Monday, September 12, 2005

SI's Peter King: Open letter to Tom Benson

In this week's edition of his Monday Morning Quarterback, Sports Illustrated NFL columnist Peter King offered the following open letter to Tom Benson:
"Dear Tom,

It's been a heck of a couple of weeks, capped off by the emotionally wrenching 23-20 victory that had America cheering for your team yesterday in Carolina. I feel for you and for everyone who has a home or business in the affected parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A family friend, Josh Norman, is a reporter for the Biloxi Sun-Herald and he has been embedded in a destroyed region, witnessing death and devastation and smelling decaying death. "There's no other smell like it,'' Norman told me on the phone the other day. "It's unmistakable.'' And what was Josh doing yesterday, on a well-earned day off? Watching NFL games at a friend's place, a home that wasn't destroyed -- and, miraculously, still had cable.

I asked him if the NFL should be playing games with the immense swath of destruction on the Gulf Coast.

"Absolutely!'' he said. "People desperately want to watch football. People need football right now.''

Which, Tom, is why I'm writing this public letter to you. These people need the Saints. This region needs the Saints, now more than any other time in the 38-year history of the franchise. And the future of this team -- and I would say even this incredibly needy region -- is in your hands as much as any single person in the United States right now. You want to know what the displaced people in Houston and Dallas and all over America want to hear right now? They want to hear you make a clear, unmistakable declaration that the Saints will stay in New Orleans, no matter what infrastructure hurdles stand in the way over the next few years and no matter how incredibly lucrative it would be for you to move the team. They want to hear you say: "There's no way on God's green earth we're moving this franchise. We will be a part of any reconstruction effort the city of New Orleans plans, and we'll get through this painful chapter in our lives together. We'll do it in New Orleans, nowhere else.''

You've come reasonably close to saying something like that. Last week, you issued a statement that said, in part, "As we move forward together, the Saints look forward to serving as a leader in the rebuilding and the revitalization of our great community.'' That's good. But it doesn't say what needs to be said. It doesn't scare off the vultures that soon will circle from the cities that would love to have your team play there. San Antonio and Red McCombs will be first in line. There will be others. I've said for months the specter of the Los Angeles Saints is a great possibility. And maybe before Hurrican Katrina, it would have been understandable for you to make the best deal you could make in a better market. But not now. Not anymore. Now is the time to do the right thing.

It is incredibly presumptuous for me to stick my nose in your business. Probably stupid, too. But I noticed Forbes reported last week that your franchise is worth $718 million. With all the trouble and the fights you've had with the Louisiana legislature, you still have one of the most valuable sports teams on the planet. If you cut and ran, which I'm not at all suggesting you're going to do, the value of the franchise would rise to, what, $900 million in a city with a new stadium? So what? How much money is enough in this world?

And as ridiculous as it sounds to be talking about a new stadium when so much of your city needs to be rebuilt, believe me: Money will be there for a first-class stadium. Somehow, some way.

Talking to people in your organization in the last couple of weeks, I've heard so much about your generosity and care for your employees. With all the stories of companies in New Orleans dissolving with the flood, and employees going uncompensated because businesses aren't there anymore, you've paid everyone and made sure everyone's family is well-cared for. That's admirable. You're showing the character of a native whose roots run deep in the city, which they do. You rose from nothing, were educated in the city, and gave a city fueled largely by tourism something to feel proud of, even in the days when all the Saints did was lose. Well, the Saints are on their way to becoming America's Team (don't laugh; I can feel the groundswell), and imagine what it would mean to the region if you announced you were going to be the foundation of the reconstruction.

That's why I urge you to think with your heart, not your wallet. Say it loud, with conviction: Under no circumstances will the Saints leave New Orleans -- unless there's not going to be a New Orleans anymore. And we know that's not going to happen.

Last night, after another native son, Peyton Manning, led the Colts past the Ravens in Baltimore, he told me about his mercy mission to Baton Rouge last week. Manning and his brother Eli took a planeload of supplies to those in need. I could see how much he'd been affected by the people he met. Like the man who watched his handicapped wife float away in the flood, then stayed afloat himself for hours until he was finally rescued. What an emotional story. "Then,''' Manning told me, "the guy said to me, 'Hey, how's your dad? How's your house?' I mean, all he'd been though, and he asks me about my dad. Incredible. But that's what New Orleans people are like. They care.''

And right now these people need you, Tom. Lead this city back. You can do it. What's more, you have to do it. No one else can.

Best wishes for an inspirational season,

Peter King"


Also, check out this New York Times article by Michael MacCambridge, entitled "Saints and NFL can lead way in wake of storm."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Might the Saints march back to town after being the New Orleans Saints of San Antonio?

Could good sentiments, hope, and philanthropy keep the Saints in New Orleans?

In what could be great news to many New Orleanians, there are some minor rumblings that the NFL may indeed bring the Saints back to the Crescent City.

Some are even going so far as to say that Katrina may have actually saved the city from losing the team.

Jacksonville Jaguars website senior editor Vic Ketchman conducts Q&A’s with fans on the team’s site, A recent question posed by a reader asked whether the Saints’ move to L.A. was solidified since the Superdome likely will be torn down. Vic’s response (five questions down) was as follows:
“There's another train of thought that believes the demolition of the Superdome will give birth to the construction of a new stadium that will become the centerpiece of New Orleans' reconstruction. The people who ascribe to that thinking believe the construction of a new stadium would put the NFL in a prominent, civic-minded light since the league would no doubt contribute significantly to the construction of a new facility that would become the new home of the Saints and an immediate Super Bowl destination. The people who ascribe to that theory believe the NFL is too smart politically to coldly abandon a city and a region that has become the focus of America's conscience. Some people believe the hurricane will have actually saved New Orleans from losing the Saints.”
Also, prominent Los Angeles Times columnist J.A. Adande wrote an encouraging column entitled, “Saints’ place is in the Home; They need football in La. more than we need it in L.A.” In an outstanding piece, Adande opines:
“If there's going to be a new New Orleans some day, the Saints should be a part of it — even if it means losing money. This is the NFL's chance to show its commitment to community service goes beyond taping a few United Way commercials. The league can give the region's battered tourism and convention industry a boost by awarding New Orleans the next available Super Bowl in 2010. (I'd take a debilitated Big Easy over next year's site, Detroit.) The NFL could use its G3 loan program to kick in $150 million toward repairing the Superdome or building a new stadium...The league needs to help the Saints help the city, even if it means the rest of the owners subsidizing them through red-number years. The Saints are doing the rest of the NFL a favor just by playing this year - including a ‘home’ game against the New York Giants in Giants Stadium -to preserve the integrity of the schedule and season. They're owed a return.”
The main problem is, if the Superdome (which officials now are saying will take months to assess and at least a year to fix, if it’s not torn down altogether) is demolished, it will take at least two to three years to construct another stadium. Due to the reconstruction of New Orleans and other areas necessitated by Katrina, the state of Louisiana would not be in a position to pay for it.

Perhaps the NFL could fund the stadium, or at least most of it. Perhaps Tom Benson could put his money where his mouth has been recently and over the last few years, and he can step up to the plate and help pay the remainder for a facility that would ensure the team remains in New Orleans as he allegedly desires.

Also, the team would need a place to play in the interim. With that, maybe the Saints could play in San Antonio as a “temporary home” for the next three years while waiting for the reconstruction of New Orleans, including a new stadium. Maybe they could take a cue from a certain Major League Baseball team and be labeled the New Orleans Saints of San Antonio. Such a move would be unprecedented, but then again, nothing quite like Katrina has ever happened in the major league sports era.

Then, once the team moved back to a new New Orleans, or shortly thereafter, Benson could retire and hand the reins to his granddaughter, as he has stated as his intentions in the past.

If the NFL did such a thing, it would bolster its public relations to an all-time high, as it would help use the team and its stadium as a centerpiece for redeveloping the city and its economy. It also would ensure itself of maintaining its historically favorite Super Bowl site. Additionally, if Benson helped pull it off, such a redeeming move would eliminate any bad sentiment Saints fans have ever held towards him.

The burning question, however, is whether Benson has it in him to step up to the plate and deliver.

Today’s San Antonio Express-News, in a column by Buck Harvey, compares Benson to ex-Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams. Harvey skewers Benson for his mishandling of the football-related Katrina aftermath, saying he responded to the catastrophe later than did FEMA.

Harvey points out that, with the assistance of former Minnesota Vikings owner and current San Antonio resident (and Benson buddy) Red McCombs, the city of San Antonio is trying to use Katrina as an opportunity to get - and keep - the Saints. (Some writers around the country rightfully see such a ploy as untimely at best, disgusting at worst.) And, by many accounts, in spite of the p.r. Red Stick Sentiment, Benson and the team would prefer to play all its “home” games in San Antonio this season.

Also running in today’s L.A. Times is an article about a new spirit of cooperation between the Los Angeles Coliseum and the NFL. The league has filmed commercials there that will run throughout this season and up to Super Bowl XL. Tonight’s season opening events will feature musical performances from there as well. And an announcement is to come in October that will very likely verify that the site is the chosen one for the NFL’s return to L.A.

If the Saints don’t go to L.A., who will? Who knows? While so many factors (both before and especially after Katrina) seem to overwhelmingly point to the Saints being the team that will fill that void, maybe, just maybe, Vic is right. Maybe the hurricane will ironically serve as a Saints savior.

In that, perhaps we should have some FAITH.

(Also, maybe I will be proven wrong for thinking of the Los Angeles Saints as a certainty, as I’ve posted before. I could live with that. In fact, I hope I am wrong. The whole purpose of this site is that I just want Saints fans to be as aware as possible of the team’s potential relocation, and the NFL’s plans for L.A. Only time will tell.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Why wouldn't the Saints move to L.A.?

(I got a great question from a reader today, and the answer was long enough to post. Below is the question and my answer.)

Question: I can't see the Saints returning to New Orleans - so why wouldn't the league put them in L.A.?

Answer: Why wouldn't they? I honestly cannot think of any reason why they wouldn't at this point. Not one.

Tragic as it is, New Orleans is no longer an option. That leaves just two places - San Antonio and Los Angeles. Without getting lengthy, here's four reasons off the top of my head:
1. We know the NFL has taken great strides toward getting that desired franchise in L.A. It has not done so in San Antonio.
2. An NFL franchise move from New Orleans to San Antonio would not create nearly the wealth (in terms of gains in media market) across the board for the league and its owners than would a move to L.A.
3. The Alamodome is not a short-term (2-3 years) solution for the NFL like the Coliseum is.
4. With the above three in mind, NFL owners will not approve a move to San Antonio over L.A.

The NFL will have a team in L.A. within the next three years. It has dedicated far too much work and lip service to stray from that stated path.

Given that, if the league doesn't move the Saints there, it will take another team from another city to fill the L.A. void. That would create bad blood with that city's fans. In an effort to not sound too harsh, New Orleans' fan base has been drastically diminished (and don't forget the meager season ticket sales for this season in the 30,000 range), and the team is off many people's maps in terms of reconstruction of the city. Couple that with the fact that New Orleans no longer can physically maintain a franchise, and the only alternative is to move the team. No other franchise has such problems.

Thus, the league would be "doing what it must" in moving the Saints to L.A., which helps it stay on top of the normally-difficult PR battle in terms of relocation.

(As an aside, that's why I think Tom Benson came out today and announced he wants to play all home games at LSU's Tiger Stadium if possible. They don't want to tear the Saints away from New Orleanians in the midst of Katrina. It allows Benson and the league to say, hey, we did the best we could. Next season, because it's a business, we have to move on. And, for the record, I don't buy Benson's Red Stick Sentiment for a second. A high-ranking team official told local media that Benson was refusing season ticket holder refunds for the 2005 season, likely in an effort to burn the bridges and move the team to San Antonio permanently. PR savvy, Benson ain't. Of course, that all has changed with the undercurrent of anger.)

Besides, who else is there? I just don't see the Vikings leaving Minneapolis, the Colts leaving Indy, the Bills leaving Buffalo or the Chiefs leaving KC. I think the Chargers also are safe given New Orleans' situation. The NFL's top Super Bowl sites historically have been New Orleans, Miami, and San Diego. I can't see the league eliminating two of those three within the next three years. There has been some rumbling that Jacksonville's Jaguars are in trouble, but I can't see them moving in the near future either. They just hosted a Super Bowl last February, and if the NFL was to voluntarily cut and run from Jacksonville so shortly after the big game was there, that would diminish the Super Bowl as a selling point to other cities that might be in a position to consider future NFL teams.

Expansion in the NFL at this point is not a likely option, since that would result in 33 teams - not a good scheduling strategy in a league with eight four-team divisions.

And, one final thought - The NFL's last expansion team was in Houston. Why move another franchise three hours away?

So the only choice, and the best fit, is the Saints and the City of Angels.

And it's only fitting. Think about it. In the very first Saints game, New Orleans lost to Los Angeles.

That's how the franchise started, and the way things look now, that's how the franchise will close its run in New Orleans.


Here's another Q&A from the Washington Times, this one between WDSU reporter Fletcher Mackel and Saints running back Deuce McAllister:

Q (Mackel): Have the Saints played their last game in New Orleans?
A (McAllister): I don't know. Nothing would surprise me.

Several sources ponder Saints-to-L.A. scenario

Today I have found a handful of columnists who, like myself, believe that the Saints are headed to L.A. due to (a) the circumstances caused by Katrina, combined with (b) the previous financial problems with the Saints, and (c) the NFL's intended goal of getting a team to the nation's second-largest media market:

- The most detailed of the recent articles is by Billy Witz of the L.A. Daily News. His column, entitled "Saints future is uncertain," focuses on the short and long term realities faced by the team.

- The San Diego Union-Tribune's Jerry Magee opines in his column, "Katrina might send Saints to LA," that the Saints cannot be maintained in the near future by New Orleans or Louisiana.

- New York Newsday columnist Bob Glauber's "Saints future may be elsewhere" states that "the unfortunate reality is that this team may very well have played its last game in New Orleans" and goes on to note two likely final destinations - San Antonio and L.A.

- The Baltimore Sun's Ken Murray writes in "With holes in stadium roof, Saints' future up in air" that "the door to leave is wide-open now. And no one may be able to close it." The likely end result is a move to Los Angeles for a fresh start.

- Another similar piece is by the Orlando Sentinel's Chris Harry, entitled "Saints may never return home."

- An article on by columnist John Czarnecki, "Saints could be headed to Los Angeles", encapsulates some of the thinking set forth on this site, especially in the previous two posts (here and here) to this site.

- This article, "Saints stadium problems should be ignored," by Ron Borges of, contends that the Superdome should not be repaired anytime soon and that Tom Benson ought to give L.A. a try.

- Another MSNBC article, Evan Weiner's "New Orleans market no longer viable," says that neither the city nor the state will be in any shape to host the Saints or Hornets.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Saints' L.A. fate sealed with (or without?) Superdome news

It's another bit in a whirlwhind of sad news from the Crescent City, ABC News reporter Ted Koppel stated at halftime of Monday night's Miami-Florida State broadcast that the Louisiana Superdome will be demolished.

If this is true, it means two things.

First, it's a very sad day for New Orleans as well as the world of sports. The Superdome has been a defining mark on the city skyline for years. It also has been the home for so many legendary sports memories, and its legacy will long outlast its physical structure.

Second, it all but ensures that the Saints will not be returning to New Orleans. Ever.

(That probably is true even if the Superdome stays intact. See below.)

Rumors are swirling that Tom Benson wants to permanently move the Saints to San Antonio. Benson, again mangling yet another p.r. issue, has not come out to quell any such talk.

It doesn't really matter. A permanent move to San Antonio won't happen. Given the backdrop of the NFL's clearly stated intentions of getting a team to Los Angeles, it's almost certain that the Saints soon will belong to the City of Angels.

Here's why. The city of San Antonio is not in any position to house an NFL franchise for the short-term future. The Alamodome is not an NFL-caliber facility. It has too few seats (app. 60,000), too few suites, and too small of a television market in relation to L.A., the nation's second-largest media market. It also has less potential corporate sponsors than Los Angeles.

In other words, it all comes down to money. And the required 24 of 32 NFL owners won't vote to move the Saints to San Antonio over Los Angeles, no matter how badly Benson wants them to.

Which means that Benson will probably be "strongly encouraged" by his NFL owner counterparts to sell the team to the group of L.A. investors for the aforementioned offer price of $1 billion, instead of trying to move it elsewhere. The NFL wants whatever team moves to Los Angeles to have local ownership, and Benson doesn't want to move the team to L.A.

As for New Orleans, we all know in our hearts that the city will not be the same for a long time. It will not have enough of a population, either in terms of corporations or people, to sustain a viable fan base. Now it appears it will not have a facility to play host to the Saints either. And, now more than ever, the state cannot afford to siphon off millions from its budget that otherwise must be used to shore up its reconstruction funds.

Besides, it seemed apparent to this writer from a wide variety of sources that Benson was posturing himself to sell the Saints to the L.A. investors after the 2005 season anyway, while trying to not look like the bad guy for doing so:

- Earlier this year he completely cut off negotiations with the state so he still could receive $15 million from Louisiana through their existing agreement. At the time he said he wouldn't talk until after the 2005 season - when the option presented itself to opt out of the present agreement with the state.

- He then vastly criticized local fan support after season ticket sales had dipped into the 30,000 range. This came after years of sellouts for subpar teams.

- Then, out of nowhere, he suddenly attempted to re-start negotiations with the state, slated to take place in August and September.

- After promising coach Jim Haslett a contract extension, Benson inexplicably to this day has not followed through.

- At the same time Benson tried to re-start negotiations, it was revealed that the NFL scheduled owner meetings in October to verify a stadium site for a future NFL team in L.A. This coincided with a season kickoff concert from Los Angeles.

- Therefore, if the new negotiations between Benson and the state weren't fruitful from Benson's perspective by the end of September, he would have had the ability to point fingers at Louisiana for not wanting him or his team to stay in New Orleans. He then could have attended the October NFL owners meeting and verified that the Saints will become the team to move to L.A.

- The Saints then could have been lame ducks for the rest of 2005, and with lagging season ticket sales, it would have been similar to the final Houston Oilers season.

- Benson then would have opted out of the current agreement through an $81 million payment to the state within 30 days of the end of the present season.

- Then, he could have sold the team to Los Angeles investors for the already-verified offer amount of $1 billion. The L.A. Coliseum has claimed it could host an NFL team starting in 2006, and the deal between the Coliseum and NFL was stated in August to be 95 percent complete. Plus, L.A.'s mayor has applied pressure on the NFL to get the deal done immediately.

Therefore, all the aforementioned steps (some largely unreported outside of this site) have been taken for the L.A. Coliseum to host the Saints in 2006. Where uncertainty existed before concerning such a move, Katrina seems to have guaranteed it.

Again, in a few years, perhaps a new state-of-the-art stadium will be constructed in New Orleans where the Superdome presently stands. Perhaps the NFL will provide an expansion team to the city that has hosted so many of its Super Bowls.


For New Orleans, that option is the one to have more faith in than the alternative. For now, the homeless and domeless Saints only fit within the NFL's L.A. plan.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Envisioning the future of the Saints and New Orleans

(Pulling this article together serves as a means of personal distraction, and for purposes of perhaps supplanting readers’ thoughts from the otherwise overwhelming barrage of news from the Big Uneasy.)

I write today with a heavy heart and a saddened soul. New Orleans has been knocked flat on its back, and it will be years before things return to what will be a new normal. The city as we knew it before probably will never be quite the same again, neither in style nor in spirit. So many buildings around town will have to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. Several people uprooted by Katrina will become grounded elsewhere, likely never to return. Mardi Gras is an afterthought.

And, aside from all else that truly matters, it is a virtual certainty from this writer’s perspective that like many citizens displaced due to dreadful circumstances beyond their control, the NFL’s Saints – and, for that matter, the NBA’s Hornets – will never call New Orleans home again.

The legendary Superdome has been left in shambles, its roof a national symbol of the city’s destruction. Mayor Nagin has declared it will be nearly four months before people are even allowed to return to Orleans Parish. Other sources indicate that it will be at least a year before reconstruction of residential homes will be able to begin.

Meanwhile, the now-homeless Saints are in California, preparing to play a preseason game at Oakland tonight. After that, they will go to San Antonio. Beyond that, nobody knows where they will hang their helmets. The team is considering all its options, and may play this season anywhere from the San Antonio Alamodome to LSU’s Tiger Stadium. Then, who knows?

(On a side note, the NBA’s Hornets also will likely play the entire 2005-06 season away from the New Orleans Arena. One short-term option is the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Long-term, however, is uncertain, for the same aforementioned reasons. The team could be a possible candidate to move to growing Las Vegas, site of the 2007 NBA All-Star game.)

Looking at the big football picture, a New Orleans recovering from such cataclysmic devastation will not be able to sustain a professional sports franchise for the foreseeable future. There will be few businesses, scant hotel revenues, nor enough people to support such a team for years to come. Money will be at a premium as reconstruction efforts begin.

Which means that, lease exit clause or not, from a purely business perspective the Saints simply cannot remain viably in New Orleans. Neither the team nor the state can afford it.

Some might contend that Tom Benson would be heartless to sell or move the Saints at a time like this. But the alternative of keeping the team in New Orleans for the next few years is just not a realistic option. The sheer economic impact of Katrina will be tremendous, and the entire city and much of the surrounding area will be in a massive rebuilding mode not seen in this country in modern times.

In addition, the state was relying on hotel and motel taxes to make annual payments to the Saints under the terms of the present lease agreement. Those tax revenues had been insufficient before; now, they will be all but eliminated by Katrina for the next several years. If the state could not afford to pay to keep the Saints in New Orleans before Katrina, it certainly cannot do so now.

Ultimately, cold as it sounds, the most logical result is that the Saints will move to Los Angeles in 2006 – not because of greed or pressure, but because of circumstance. It only adds to the epic tragedy that is Katrina. The city and the NFL already have plans in place to make such a move. Benson already has received an offer of $1 billion for the team from L.A. investors. And the stadium is already there, ready to go.

As is well-documented on this site, all signs seemed to point to the Saints moving to Los Angeles after the 2005 season anyway. Unfortunately, Katrina virtually ensures it will happen now. And, in all likelihood, the team will have a new name, a new logo, and a new identity.

But, perhaps there is a silver lining amid the many dark clouds of despair. Perhaps the present destruction wrought by Katrina is a guarantee for an NFL franchise to return to New Orleans in the future.

Follow me on this.

Maybe, in a few years, once the city has been rebuilt and businesses and people are thriving there again, the NFL will seek to add an expansion franchise to New Orleans to reward its resolve and thank it for the nine Super Bowls it hosted.

Maybe, like Cleveland’s Browns, the Saints can be re-born.

Maybe a new stadium can be built with support from the NFL, much like the support that will be similarly provided for a Los Angeles franchise.

And maybe those living in shelters now will one day be sitting in a gleaming state-of-the-art facility, cheering a new team, live on national television, from a rebuilt and thriving New Orleans.

Until then, all that really matters is not between the sidelines of a football field, but between the evacuee lines at shelters across the region.

With that (and not football) in the forefront of my mind, I pray for those displaced, those who have lost loved ones, those who are working to recover the missing and restore the city, and for the city of New Orleans itself. God bless them all.