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, November 16, 2005

Benson: Saints 'not for sale'; NFL owners support Benson; League to make early Saints '06 schedule

After a meeting of NFL owners and commissioner Paul Tagliabue yesterday in Kansas City to discuss the New Orleans Saints' future, it was apparent that the league has placed its FAITH in Tom Benson.

It also was obvious that a re-invention of Tommy Boy's public relations image has officially begun.

As an example of both, Dan Rooney, chief of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was quoted in this article by Judy Battista of the New York Times as saying, "Tom Benson is one of the finest, caring people I know in the National Football League. He's been painted into an evil-looking person, which is definitely not the case."

(In the words of Austin Powers' Dr. Evil: "Riiiiiiiiigggghhhhht." Was it not Benson who punched a camera and sent an angry derogatory email about Baton Rouge? Was it not Benson who has been in bed with San Antonio while New Orleans helplessly lays in tatters? Was it not Benson who fired the strongest advocate of the team's return to New Orleans? Was it not Benson who wanted to refuse refunds to season ticket holders after Katrina? And before Katrina, was it not Benson who blasted New Orleans' fan base after decades of tremendous support? How can he not be painted into an evil-looking person? He's the one with the brush! It is what it is. But I digress...)

And, a clearly happy, smiling Benson himself proclaimed in public that he was committed to New Orleans, and that the Saints are not available for purchase.

According to this article by Billy Witz of the Los Angeles Daily News, Benson told reporters after the meeting that, "The team is not for sale. We don't have to talk about that one."

(So much for the Terry Bradshaw option.)

Benson also chimed in on returning the Saints to New Orleans, according to this article by Judy Battista of the New York Times: "Hopefully the day will come when we'll have a lot of football in New Orleans...(The league's owners) understand how hard we are working to try to come back to New Orleans. We've got the whole league behind us."

(I wonder if the league is behind Benson returning to Baton Rouge. He still hasn't since that email.)

In that vein, the same New York Times story also quoted Houston Texans' owner Robert McNair as saying, "We need to see what's going to happen in New Orleans and give them a chance to recover. You don't kick people when they're down."

No word if McNair was talking about the NFL owners, or about San Antonio.

Tagliabue also was quoted in the L.A. Daily News story above, saying, "Our priority is on Louisiana. (But) I think it will be very difficult to say every home game will be played in one place."

That article also indicated that there is yet some potential for games to be played next season in San Antonio, which in this writer's eyes would be a huge mistake.

Tagliabue also was quoted in this AP story as saying, "These are very difficult challenges. Everyone needs to be patient. There are a lot of complications here and I think everyone is working in good faith to get them resolved."

Perhaps most important, though, is the question of how long such patience with the New Orleans situation will be exhibited by the NFL. When Denver Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen was asked about the time frame, his response according to the L.A. Daily News - "That's a good question."

Indeed it is. No doubt, it's one that was discussed behind closed doors and not made public.

And maybe what we don't know is why Benson was so happy yesterday.

We shall see.

The L.A. Daily News pointed out another item of interest that came out of the meeting - the league will put together the Saints' 2006 schedule in January, and also is considering additional bonuses for free agents to sign with the team given its circumstances. The other 31 NFL teams also will be piecing together some financial support for Benson and the Saints. And the league's blackout policy could continue to be waived in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas.

So the NFL is fighting the good fight, and has Benson on board with a p.r. makeover in place.

Or at least that's what they want us to think.

Keep the FAITH...


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