Tags misses BR game, but Benson makes it; Both to visit N.O. Monday; Saints employees angry; Finney pens must-read
Probably just as well. From the looks of things, the crowd at Tiger Stadium was less than that for the annual LSU spring game.
But one who did make the trip to Baton Rouge was noneother than Tom Benson, according to KLFY-TV out of Lafayette.
Presumably, Benson's life was not threatened. At least no WWL-TV cameras were damaged in his return.
(As an aside, and I've probably written this before - it's a firm belief of mine that the Saints attendance in Tiger Stadium has been directly and intentionally influenced tremendously by the actions of Tom Benson, and the past experience of Saints fans at the Dolphins-Saints game in Tiger Stadium. But that's a whole other post.)
Tagliabue still planned on flying to New Orleans tonight to make his scheduled visit throughout the city Monday with Benson. Also slated to be present are Gene Upshaw (NFL Players Association executive director) as well as Joe Browne, Roger Goodell, and Jeff Pash (NFL executive presidents), according to this article by the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan.
It's expected that they will take a tour of the city and pay a visit the Saints' training facility in Metairie and the Superdome, which is like a construction site at this point.
This AP story describes the Superdome as having "rooms with walls torn out and dust floating in the air above the concrete floor where the artificial turf had been."
The reason for the visit is to see the progress made over the three-plus months since Katrina devastated the city, in an effort to see how well the area could support the Saints in the coming months and years.
Importantly, Duncan notes, "Three team sources said this week they are more convinced than ever that Benson wants to keep the team in San Antonio through next season, if not permanently."
So it is vital for local leaders, who also will meet with the NFL leadership on their visit, to make an effective sell.
It would be nice if some of the Saints' own employees could help lobby the NFL in Louisiana's favor. In Duncan's article, some are quoted as saying the following:
"The whole thing is crazy and ridiculous. There's no reason why this team should not be back in Metairie right now or at least in January. No one is giving us any answers."Another very intriguing point made in Duncan's article is that two Saints team sources have indicated that "more than 90 percent of the roughly 175 players, coaches and staff members in the Saints organization live in Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Tammany parishes, areas that weren't as hard hit in the storm and have recovered significantly in the past two months."
"Going through the hurricane was the easy part compared to the hell we're going through now."
Also, it seems that only one player - rookie lineman Jammal Brown - lost his home in the storm.
In any event, more should come out of Tagliabue's visit tomorrow...
FINNEY PENS MUST-READ
New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney wrote an outstanding piece for Sunday's edition, linked here.
Finney asserts that New Orleans deserves another shot after fans there have "given unbelievable support to a franchise that has produced seven winning seasons, and one playoff victory, in 38 years."
Finney points out that the team's Metairie training facility is a far better option than what the Saints have dealt with in San Antonio. To quote:
"At the moment, with the Saints having to surrender their space in the Alamodome because of the NCAA volleyball tournament, the team's locker room will be moved to a high school baseball field. The weight room will be located under a tent on the baseball field's parking lot. The front office will relocate to a city water works building."Finney also states quite accurately that Tagliabue has essentially forced Benson from moving the Saints to San Antonio, and that the NFL commissioner is New Orleans' biggest ally.
Finney's own desire sounds good:
"In my world, a world that would bring the Superdome into play, here's what I would like to see: I would like to see Benson commit to playing his 2007 home schedule in the facility that was the home of six Super Bowls.As always...we shall see.
"I would tell Benson: Do this, give the city, give the Superdome, a shot to demonstrate there is still a heartbeat here for the Saints.
"If there isn't, if the results are disastrous despite league assistance, if the NFL deems New Orleans a lost cause financially, then tell Benson, who would be 80, he can bid his hometown farewell. Tell him he's free to go to San Antonio, anywhere at all, with the Big Easy's blessing.
"For 20 years of untold NFL riches, the gift of a small market that embraced a Hall of Fame losing franchise, all I'm saying is Benson deserves to give New Orleans, the Superdome, and the long-suffering Who Dats one last shot."
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