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, December 22, 2005

Benson, S.A. peddle 'sell-out' spin; Alamodome director: 'Gulf Coast region...doesn't exist anymore'; Benson slammed again; A pro-Benson column?

Tom Benson and San Antonio's media outlets continue to paint the picture that it has better fan support than does New Orleans, and thus the city should keep the Saints.

Today, the New Orleans Saints website, the San Antonio Express-News, and the San Antonio Business Journal all proudly puff their chests and report that Saturday's Christmas Eve tilt between the Saints and Detroit Lions is nearly sold out.

Kudos to them. Except that it's a blatant mischaracterization of the facts.

Fact One is that San Antonio citizens were granted special sales packages not extended to fans in Louisiana.

Fact Two is that, according to this San Antonio Express-News article, marketing has been ramped up in San Antonio to achieve this goal of getting a hefty attendance Saturday. The same article also misrepresents Fact One, saying that ticket discounts were for groups, when that simply isn't the case.

Where was the increased marketing in Baton Rouge? Oh yeah - it was Benson shoving a TV camera and telling Baton Rouge to go to hell.

Fact Three is that a company with direct negotiating ties to Benson snatched up 10,000 tickets, or nearly one-sixth of the Alamodome's total capacity, to give away to the military. Nothing of the like took place in Baton Rouge, presumably because of Fact Two.

Fact Four is that San Antonio is not spending money repairing houses covered with blue roofs. In fact, San Antonio's media would have you think the Saints were just escapading through central Texas just to get away from Louisiana, and that New Orleans and San Antonio are evenly matched. Katrina, Rita, and Facts One through Three negate that notion.

And Fact Five is that you will not see Facts One through Four in any San Antonio publication. Sure, the HollyHills 10,000 ticket bailout makes a brief splash, but there is no talk about the company's proposed development of a sports megacenter in San Antonio involving the Saints.

So we'll watch Saturday, and hear uninformed television commentators (including Boomer Esiason) talk about how much better support is in San Antonio than in Baton Rouge, without reference to the Facts.

And we'll hear people like Christian Archer, San Antonio mayor Phil Hardburglar's chief assistant, say things like, "We've made the case. We've done everything we can do to prove we're an NFL city."

(Except for that charitable thing the NFL so prides itself on. Is stealing from a helpless place NFL-worthy?)

The Express-News also notes that "San Antonio officials, most notably Hardberger, have toned down their rhetoric after some public comments about moving the Saints resulted in their being portrayed as looters."

Perhaps Archer didn't get the message.

As for the rest of them - It's not just the comments, guys, it's the actions as well.

At least the NFL and Paul Tagliabue are aware of the Facts, and are willing to give New Orleans and Louisiana a genuine fair shot at supporting the Saints in 2006.

Even if Benson isn't.

In an interview on San Antonio's KENS-5, Alamodome director George Michael Abington said, "The entire gulf coast region...the doesn't really exist anymore...and that's their (Saints) ticket base."

It is a cold and shallow assessment of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and another of many slaps in the face to residents living in and returning to those areas.

It also fails to take into account the Saints fans who do exist in other parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and elsewhere.

It seems that this is the real perception of San Antonio officials. Or it's at least a rationalization for their putrid, vulture-like treatment of New Orleans.

In any event, an apology should be in order.

In USA Today's Inside Scoop yesterday, the following was written about the Saints: "A haggard Jim Haslett is expected to force his way out of an ugly situation to try to pursue another position. The Saints coach was never granted the contract extension that owner Tom Benson promised in the spring. Haslett's expected departure after doing a thankless job is just the latest example of Benson's mismanagement of a team that has already lost several front office people. The likelihood now is that the Saints will be forced to settle for a younger, less-experienced head coach because of the team's unsettled future and an owner who has alienated the team's fan base. Aaron Brooks also is expected to be out in New Orleans after his failure to develop into a more consistent quarterback and leader." Great work, Tommy Boy.

Imagine where you might find a column supporting Tom Benson...

If you guessed San Antonio, give yourself a sarcastic pat on the back.

Here's the link to the San Antonio Express-News column by Buck Harvey.

Okay, so it's not necessarily pro-Benson. It does offers some light criticism. But on the whole, it puts him in a positive light.

Only in San Antonio...


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