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

Thursday, September 15, 2005

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.