Surly Benson swipes at camera, Tagliabue commits to Louisiana; Are the two related?
The real story wasn't the game, however.
First, Tom Benson yet again proved he is unmatched in his public relations fumbling, as he was caught on camera in a particularly surly mood, apparently cursing out a fan and taking a swipe at a WWL-TV camera that was filming it all. (Video footage can be seen here. Credit to wwltv.com for the photo inset.)
An NFL spokesperson said today that Tommy Boy isn't likely to be punished by the league.
This, after Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco was quoted as saying, "Mr. Benson would certainly like to see the rhetoric toned down, and has expressed that to me. We all need to do our part, including Mr. Benson."
Great job, Tommy Boy. Outstanding way to do your part.
Of course, perhaps in his own eyes, he's already been punished.
Just hours before, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had met with Benson and Blanco, and then came out in support of keeping the team in Louisiana.
According to ESPN.com, Tagliabue said, "The Saints are Louisiana's team and have been since the late '60s when my predecessor Pete Rozelle welcomed them to the league as New Orleans' team and Louisiana's team. Our focus continues to be on having the Saints in Louisiana."
Somewhere, Arnold Fielkow must have been smiling.
Tagliabue added, "I think the reports this week about the longterm landing spot being Los Angeles were nonsensical."
(I don't. I think Tags is engaging in some nifty p.r. spin.
For example, he also was quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying, "We have to be realistic and consider not only the facilities issue but the human issue. It's more about the overall recovery of the area than it is about facilities. We need to realize there's been a tremendous human toll, and for the Saints and NFL to come back in the proper way we need to recognize the human toll and take it into account."
If they can't come back in whatever the "proper way" is, then is believing the Saints will end up in L.A. nonsensical? Probably not.)
Tagliabue also mentioned that the team could be renamed the "Louisiana Saints" or "Gulf Coast Saints" in an effort to garner wider support for the team.
He also was asked about Benson's and San Antonio's angling for a team in the Alamo City, and was quoted as responding as follows:
"Teams don't operate as free agents so they can run around the country and play where they want to play. We've got a very specific set of guidelines on that, and my assumption is that every owner is complying with that policy."According to the L.A. Times, Tagliabue added:
"The business model for the Saints needs to be changed. It needs to be expanded. I think a fresh look has to be taken at the lease arrangements, the master agreement arrangements. From my perspective, they were flawed. That's not to say that they were too favorable to one side or the other; they just weren't well thought through, and well-structured."Which all had to sting from Benson's perspective.
Those comments, along with whatever was said behind closed doors and the poor play of the Saints on Sunday, probably led to his childish tirade, which is embarrassing and especially unbecoming of a big-time professional sports owner.
It's not as if he's earned a glimmering reputation among his own team's fan base.
For example, the L.A. Times reported that "Fans tailgating outside Tiger Stadium had a sign reading 'Tom Benson, Ya Mama Would Be Ashamed,' and the crowd booed when Benson's name was mentioned in a scoreboard video about the Saints' contributions to hurricane relief efforts."
(And that, of course, was before the camera incident.)
The end result is that Benson will be practically harnessed by the NFL committee appointed to keep watch over him.
It's the best thing for the league, the team, and Benson himself.
Ultimately, what we really know is that there is no end result as of yet - except that the team won't end up in San Antonio permanently. Though Tagliabue provided some inspiring words for Louisianians, the fact is that we remain firmly entrenched in a holding pattern, waiting and seeing what will take place over the next several weeks and months.
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