Might the Saints march back to town after being the New Orleans Saints of San Antonio?
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, jaguars.com. 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, jaguars.com 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.)