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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Benson unleashes full-page CYA ad in Times-Picayune

Saints owner Tom Benson took out a full-page ad in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune and Baton Rouge Advocate, seeking to weaken the criticism he has received for the last two weeks' news involving the club.

A pdf link to the ad can be found here.

Interestingly enough, the ad comes four days before the Saints kick off in Baton Rouge's Tiger Stadium against the Miami Dolphins. Ticket sales have lagged, in no small part because of the controversy surrounding the team's future.

It smells of the kind of rhetoric Benson spouted about winning the Super Bowl when season ticket sales plummetted this past summer after he halted negotiations with Louisiana.

In any event, on to the ad itself.

In bold, all-capital letters, Benson proclaims, "TOM BENSON WANTS TO RETURN TO NEW ORLEANS."

He also notes, "NO DECISION HAS BEEN MADE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE TEAM...because no decision has been made about the future of New Orleans."

Further down, he says, "It must be made very clear that the future of our team in New Orleans will be determined by factors that are yet unresolved, such as economics and facilities..." In other words, money and a new stadium.

Benson then takes shots at New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, who had criticized Benson with such comments as, "We want our Saints back...we don't want the owner." Benson responds: "If the Saints and Tom Benson were as important to the city as the Mayor of our city has claimed in the recent past, why such harsh comments..."

Tommy Boy then targets his frustration with media criticism, saying, "A direct result of this scrutiny has been the many negative editorals and columns written or said about me. These are from some media people who have never run a company and have no clear understanding of how to run a successful business."

Well, let's take a look at this, shall we?

Why did Benson receive so much criticism? The answer is two-fold:
a. He has "no clear understanding" of how to run a successful public relations campaign. (He also has "no clear understanding" of how to run a successful NFL franchise; if he did, the Saints would have more than one playoff win in his nearly 20 years as owner. And yes, to a certain extent, that matters. He has hammered his team's fans for lack of support, when they have given his team unbelievable support, especially when compared to the results on the field.)

b. He has "no clear understanding" of how his own actions completely contradict what comes out of his mouth, or out of the mouths of people close to him. For example, if he really wants to stay in New Orleans, why did he seek to end the lease on his team's training facility in Metairie? The extent of damage to the facility is disputed; what's the real reason? And why is the San Antonio mayor saying he's been talking to Benson about relocating the team there for a year now? Heck, why did his own attorney (Stanley Rosenberg, from San Antonio) let it be known that he was eying San Antonio and Albuquerque as relocation options earlier this year?

And why did Benson fire Arnold Fielkow? Was it, as the San Antonio Express-News reported, because Fielkow was too committed to returning the Saints to Louisiana?

Or why he was quoted as saying "he didn't say" he'd never sell the Saints?

I hate to say it, but I don't buy Benson's ad. I just don't.

I want to believe every word in it. His actions won't let me.

More questions: If Benson really wanted to put this information out there, wouldn't it have come out a month ago at the latest?

If Benson really wanted his Saints to remain in "his hometown," wouldn't he have actively opposed allowing things to reach such a high friction point, as they have?

And, what really stands out in my mind, is this: If Benson really does want his Saints to stay in New Orleans, why allow the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to put up a "SAINTS - Keep the Faith" banner on its downtown building, with "SA" in white and the rest in gold, clearly indicated "San Antonio"?

Why allow "Texas sized tailgating" signs at the Alamodome with the Saints' fleur de lis serving as the "T" in Texas?

(I took photos of both on my recent trip to S.A.)

Why tell San Antonio that it is "of utmost importance" to sell out the Alamodome for Saints games there?

Why allow Saints season-ticket holders to get the shaft?

It, like Benson's deafening silence the last two weeks until now, sends the wrong message to devoted Saints fans trying to grasp for straws.

Now, the first time Benson comes forth with such a strongly worded message, it's just days before a game where ticket sales have slumped?

To me, it sends the message that Benson is just trying to increase the ticket sales he'll receive before departing southeast Louisiana for good.

It's why it seems to me he's using southeast Louisiana Saints fans for one last run at the gold to keep him high in the black.

It's why, in my opinion, he refused to renegotiate his deal with the state of Louisiana last summer. He knew he would force the state to come up with $15 million in annual bounty, all the while leaving his exit clause intact after the 2005 season.

It's why, in my opinion, he dodged commenting on the team's future after 2005 and instead asserted that the Saints would make a Super Bowl run, so that fans would run out and buy season tickets.

It's all about economics.

Until his actions match his words, a one-page newspaper advertisement won't be enough to change my mind.