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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Typo from two previous posts acknowledged - Saints worth $738 million based on 2005 numbers

Just wanted everyone to know that a couple of readers alerted me to a significant typo in two previous postings...It's with regard to the Saints' valuation as conducted by Forbes Magazine. In two recent posts, I had listed that value as $378 million.

I mis-typed - the actual value is $738 million. I should have caught that, but I didn't - but my thanks to those who did!

Also, I want to point out that these numbers are based on the 2005 revenues and operating income. I'm sure you will recall the Saints' predicament during 2005. So, the team's revenue and operating income should take a nice leap for the '06 season.


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Why the Super Bowl should NOT be in New Orleans permanently

After reading a column today that voices support to have the Super Bowl in New Orleans every year from now on, the first thoughts that came to mind were of how great that would be.

Big economic impact, lots of fun, worldwide spotlight - all good things, right?

But then I really got to thinking - under what circumstances would that really happen?

Then, it wasn't such a good idea. And I hope it never happens.

The column, by Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News entitled "Super Bowl belongs in New Orleans, not Miami", contends that the roughly $400 million of economic benefit that Miami will get this week should instead go to a place that needs it more than ever.

I applaud that consideration.

She goes a step further, remembering fondly that New Orleans is a "superb good-time host, throwing memorable parties before great games." And, she points out, "The NFL is already one of the few positive forces in post-Katrina New Orleans."

So, she writes, the city should become the Super Bowl's permanent host.

So why am I against this?

Because it would mean that the Saints would have to leave New Orleans to make it happen.

Follow me here. NFL owners would never go for a plan that keeps the Super Bowl permanently in a city that also plays host to one of the league's franchises. It would create a potentially permanent championship home-field advantage that no other team would be able to counter. And, it would be a difficult sell to other communities that have footed the bill for big, expensive stadiums with the potential for hosting the biggest party of all.

Plus, if the NFL did allow the Saints to leave New Orleans but offered the city the Super Bowl every year as a carrot to accept the loss of its beloved black and gold, how much love do you think the city would show the NFL?

I'm thinking, not very much.

The Saints really mean something to a lot of people here, and they are a beacon of hope and inspiration in a place that needs it. This is evidenced by the hugs shared and tears shed when the team won its second playoff game ever this past season. And the hundreds of people who, after it had lost the NFC championship in Chicago, braved the rain and welcomed the team back with a road-lined celebration at 2 a.m. The team's flight had been delayed, but the party went on.

(As an aside, I read somewhere that all of THREE Bears fans were present at the airport to send the Bears off to Miami. Trust me, had the Saints beaten the Bears, the road to Louis Armstrong Airport would have been packed like a big Mardi Gras parade - both to send the team off, and to welcome them back.)

If the Saints do leave, New Orleans, as well as much of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, would become apathetic about the NFL.

And, if the league dangled the Super Bowl in exchange for losing the Saints, the city would be expected to show a level of artificial excitement for a championship game of a league that allowed part of its fabric to be ripped away.

It would be a hollow party every single year, and the local media would trumpet this fact annually.

Which is why it wouldn't work. And it shouldn't be an option in the first place.

The Saints belong in New Orleans.

The city deserves a fair chance to rebuild and recapture its glory. Perhaps it should host a Super Bowl for the next available slot, in 2011.

Because nobody throws a great football party like New Orleans.

But only if the Saints are still here.


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Monday, January 29, 2007

A great Saints '06 video tribute

Here's a link to a terrific video tribute to the 2006 New Orleans Saints, by Logan "Hank" Babin, III of Houma:


Wow - what a season.


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Friday, January 26, 2007

My response to Chicago Tribune blog apology for Saints fans mistreatment

Okay, this one is a little off-topic for this site. But I feel compelled to share my response to the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn, who posted an apology to Saints fans for their mistreatment in Chicago for the recent NFC championship game.

For those of you who don't know, many Saints fans who made the trip to Chicago were met with jeers like "We'll finish what Katrina started" and "you should have died in the flood." They were also openly threatened. As a result, many left the game early out of concern for their personal safety.

Zorn's blog post, which can be read here, included a photo of Bears fans holding up a sign that reads, "We'll finish what Katrina started." It's one of the most repugnant things I've ever seen.

But it doesn't stop there. A person named "Christiana" posted the following comment to the blog:
" was equally idiotic and tasteless for the media to go on and on about how an ultimately inconsequential football game was somehow going to magically transform New Orleans.

(If the Super Bowl were being held there, it would be a totally different story. But it's not, so it isn't.)

And as a side note: I went online to read the Times-Picayune on Monday. Can someone please explain to me how people who are still living in FEMA trailers are able to afford Saints season tickets?"
The ignorance is amazing.

For what it's worth, here is my response to Zorn's post and the comment:



I really appreciated your recent blog post, "The silence of the fans", acknowledging that many Chicago fans were an absolute embarrassment to their city and their team in hosting the recent NFC championship game between the Bears and Saints. On the largest Saints message board, numerous posts were submitted telling one horror story after another. Michael Bayham's story unfortunately was not unique in the least. Perhaps that's the real reason why the team decided to only sell available tickets to people with Illinois or northwest Indiana zip codes - to save residents of Louisiana who made the trip north from Katrina taunts, wish-you-died-in-the-flood threats, and so on.

I want to counter some comments to your blog post that ask about how Saints fans can afford season tickets when they have FEMA trailers, which to me is an incredibly insensitive question, particularly when the poster obviously has absolutely no idea what it's like to deal with such a monumental tragedy.

Many of us, not only in the New Orleans and south Mississippi area but also in the southwest Louisiana area (devastated by forgotten Rita), are resilient and have been rebuilding homes and communities, as well as trying to return to a sense of normalcy. A part of that necessarily includes the Saints.

The Saints have become a part of our heritage. Here, families gather on Sunday afternoons to watch the Saints, be it in the Superdome or around a living room television, and for many this has become a tradition passed down from one generation to the next. Maybe they lost most of the time, but this was, and is, our team.

New Orleans (and Louisiana) has a deep-rooted passion for the Saints, not unlike the passion Boston has for the Red Sox, or your own Chicago has for the Cubs. For us, a fall Sunday without Saints football just wouldn’t seem right.

I will concede that in some reports, some Saints season tickets were purchased with FEMA money, but those were very few instances. The remainder who purchased the vast majority of tickets with their hard-earned dollars deserve far better than to be classified as irresponsible spenders. A lot of these people have experienced working all day at a job, then working in the evenings and weekends on repairing their homes, and deserve the respite of a black-and-gold Superdome on eight glorious Sundays in the fall. How dare they be judged by someone who has never dealt with something like this.

Over the course of the last several months, the passion that Louisiana has for its beloved Saints has overflowed. There is a pride that this state has that many who don't live here just don't understand. And, whether they win or lose, the Saints are Louisiana's team, and that feeling has never been stronger, especially after dealing with Katrina’s and Rita’s aftermath, then after almost losing the team because of Katrina, and then after having to fend off a vulturistic San Antonio to keep it in New Orleans.

The above reasons are why the Saints sold out of season tickets for the first time in team history - not because a bunch of trailer-bound morons wasted government money on football tickets and are still looking for another handout to cover the cost.

The magical season that rewarded Saints fans and provided a wonderful diversion - the season that gave us a renewed sense of belief and pride and faith in ourselves - was an added bonus. That’s why Saints fans in the thousands went to Chicago - to bask in the glory of uncharted territory, and to support the team’s continued improbable run. That it ended a game too soon was disappointing. That many Saints fans had to endure what they endured (“We’ll finish what Katrina started”) from Chicago fans was far, far worse.

I leave you with two thoughts:

1. Did Giants or Jets fans have to deal with “We’ll finish what 9/11 started” signs in road games after that tragedy? What would the response have been?

2. Had Chicago suffered a great tragedy on a similar scale to New Orleans, and another city (see: San Antonio) actively worked to steal the Cubs or Bears from it, would people still find a way to buy tickets to help show support for keeping the Cubs or Bears and to maintain a bit of normalcy? What would Chicago do?

They’d find a way.

Just like Saints fans have.

I really do wish people around the country would have a better sense of what is really going on down here, in terms of the problems we face, the struggles we have endured, and the mountains we still must climb.

Having to fight repugnant ignorance in another corner of the country, over a football game, shouldn't be one of those mountains.

Thank you for recognizing that.



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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Potential Saints relocation called 'horribly cruel'; NFL leaving Saints support to New Orleans; New stadium labeled 'fairy tale'

Three recent articles on the Saints have mentioned potential relocation for New Orleans' beloved franchise. Here's a rundown:

Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley has penned a piece, "Moving the Saints wouldn't be a surprise," that notes that moving the Saints would be "horribly cruel."

While it offers little new news, the column astutely points out that eight of the current 32 franchises have relocated from their host cities since 1982 - that's 25 percent of all franchises.

The obvious implication is that the image-conscious NFL has little conscience when it comes to fans in a city that, by league standards, is determined to be subpar.

On the Saints, Bickley writes, "Their owner, Tom Benson, has many ties and many car dealerships in San Antonio. The NFL has a gaping hole in Los Angeles. The ceiling of corporate dollars is too low in New Orleans, and the lure of new money may be too much to resist."

But, Bickley counters to state that of all previous NFL relocations, the Saints leaving New Orleans would be the worst.

A column by Vito Stellino of, entitled "Saints success masks big issue", notes a couple of troubling issues for Saints fans.

First, the article quotes NFL executive VP Joe Browne to state, "We want the Saints to succeed in New Orleans, but the business community, especially, has to step up and continue to support them. We already have the best revenue-sharing plans in sports, and that helps teams like New Orleans in a small market."

In other words, the league is done with ponying up any more dough to keep the Saints in New Orleans.

This, after the push to establish a team in Los Angeles meant (and may still mean) the league footing a bill upwards of $1 billion to construct a new stadium there.


And, Stellino points out that "money in pro football comes from luxury boxes, stadium naming rights and sponsorships," meaning Buffalo's ability to hold onto the Bills is in trouble, and the same goes for New Orleans and the Saints:
"That's also why the Saints are in trouble. They sold out their tickets this season, which would have made them viable 20 years ago. Not now. New Orleans doesn't have enough remaining corporate presence that will buy luxury boxes and sponsorships."
Stellino's likely relocation spots for the Saints include Los Angeles and (gag) San Antonio after the team's Superdome lease expires in 2010.

Finally, Jim Mashek of the Sun Herald (MS), in his column entitled, "Saints have these questions to ponder for next year", touches briefly on possible relocation and writes the following:
"The Saints won't have any trouble selling season tickets for next year, but we'd like to see club owner Tom Benson make some real progress on the front of making the Louisiana Superdome the team's permanent home. Benson needs to forget about the fairy tale of a new stadium any time soon. New Orleans has a city to rebuild."
Here's to guessing that the "facility problem" cited by Saints chief financial officer Dennis Lauscha here means the real fairy tale is believing the Saints won't ask for a new stadium in upcoming negotiations with the state.

Should be an interesting offseason...


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Monday, January 22, 2007

Amazing airport welcome reported on

Friends, here's a real heartwarming story that many of us would have loved to have been a part of - the greeting of the Saints at Armstrong airport after they arrived from Chicago.'s Wright Thompson deserves a lot of credit for putting together "A loss? Not to Saints fans in New Orleans". It's a must-read. Enjoy.


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First 2007 Saints-to-L.A. shot fired by SI's Banks; A thank you to the Saints

One day after the miraculous, inspiring Saints season drew to a close on a cold snowy field in Chicago, the talk again has started of a Saints relocation to Los Angeles.

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, in his weekly "Snap Judgments" column on, wrote the following for today's edition:

"Consider the Saints loss a missed opportunity for the still-rebuilding city of New Orleans. A Super Bowl trip would have further wed the organization to the identity of the city, and might have almost forced the NFL to do everything it its power to keep the franchise in Louisiana. Despite being this year's feel-good story, the Saints' long-term future in New Orleans is far from secure based on this season's success and playoff appearance.

"By making the Super Bowl, the Saints would have made it very difficult for the league to do anything but continue to work on their long-term viability in New Orleans, a city that lost both population base and a slice of its already-thin corporate community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But in the absence of a Super Bowl season, it's easier to imagine the Saints potentially packing up for Los Angeles some day."
While it's a shame that it didn't take 24 hours after the Saints' magic carpet ride ended for this kind of talk to re-emerge, it also speaks some truth.

I think it's ridiculous to wed the Saints' prospects for staying or leaving based on whether they reached Super Bowl XLI. But there are some very real problems the franchise faces.

The commitment of the fan base, of course, is without question. The team even recognized the fans with a banner, thanking them for the franchise's first season ticket sellout.

But the high crime rate and slow rebuilding are causing some who did move back to think seriously about leaving again - permanently. The team needs the support of businesses in the area, and it remains to be seen whether the Gulf South region will chip in to help by advertising or buying suites.

The team's lease with the state concludes in 2010, with the annual inducements continuing. A negotiation is set to take place in the offseason between Saints owner Tom Benson and governor Kathleen Blanco to rework the deal and extend the agreement, with the Saints likely wanting a new stadium in the process.

And, with the recent Forbes franchise valuations showing the Saints are valued at some $738 million, knowing that there have been offers made to buy the team for over $1 billion (to relocate the team to California) is not a comforting thought.

Granted, Benson has said he'd never sell the Saints.

But if he did, he'd make a pretty penny, especially considering he bought the franchise in 1985 for $65 million.

It will be an interesting offseason, both in terms of football (seeing how the team addresses its needs) and of long-term viability.

While this might not be an appropriate spot to send a shout out, I want to thank Tom Benson, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Mickey Loomis, Rick Mueller, and everyone else in the Saints front office; Sean Payton and the entire coaching staff; and every single Saints player (too many to list here, but here's the roster) for an amazing 2006-07 season.

It was a pleasure to watch the franchise's 40th year turn into a weekly magical ride. There are too many moments to remember them all, but the Monday Night game, the Bush punt return, the Hail Mary, the Cowboy crushing, the Second Playoff What a run.

Again, thank you.

And, to Tom Benson and Rita Benson LeBlanc - I (along with thousands of other Saints fans) hope and pray that the next 40 years of Saints football, good or bad, will be in New Orleans, where it belongs.


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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

NY Times: Saints in trouble in New Orleans; Team official indicates need for new stadium; State to again offer inducements; San Antonio still at it

Amidst the most glorious season in franchise history, today's New York Times has run a story that should have Saints fans worried more than the Bears defense or snow at Soldier Field.

This, according to the article entitled "The Football is Fine, but but the Saints' Finances Aren't So Bright" by Richard Sandomir, which is the first in a long while to focus on the business woes of the team.

The story could be the first strike in leveraging negotiations between Saints owner Tom Benson and likely lame-duck governor Kathleen Blanco.

Saints vice president for marketing Ben Hales is quoted in the piece as saying, “We’re nowhere where we need to be, given the state of the community. The problems we had before Katrina have been exacerbated.”

The article continues, focusing on problems such as the decline in population, the decrease in television market size (from 43rd to 54th), the escalation in crime, and the slow reconstruction.

Sports marketing experts are quoted throughout the piece, including the oft-quoted Marc Ganis, who indicates that the team would need higher annual financial inducements than they currently receive. (The team is scheduled to be paid around $20 million this summer by the state.)

Forbes editor Michael Ozanian states in the article, “I think if they get to the Super Bowl, you’ll see a lot of talk of rebirth, but the numbers just aren’t there, in terms of people living there and in terms of the business there. It’s a real problem for the N.F.L.”

Which is why new NFL commissioner Robert Goodell did not make any sort of long-term commitment after making a quick visit to the Superdome on Saturday afternoon.

The author also writes that the Benson family (owner Tom and owner-in-waiting Rita Benson LeBlanc) "would ever earn enough in New Orleans to satisfy the Benson family, which could earn much more by playing in a larger, more stable and wealthier market." The Saints are estimated to be worth $738 million by Forbes Magazine, which is good enough for 27th of the 32 NFL franchises.

Not good news for Saints fans.

The team, which can opt out of its current lease after the present season by paying the state $61 million, likely won't do so after honoring the fans of the team with a banner in the Superdome commemorating their sellout of the entire 2006 home schedule.

Instead the Benson's will either come to the table seeking an extension of the current lease (which expires in 2010) and a new stadium (yes, you read that right), or will be prepared to exit or sell the team after the 2010 season.

Saints' chief financial officer Dennis Lauscha indicated that the Saints need a new facility to play in. Check out this quote: "“We’re financially viable. We have two big problems, a facility problem and a market problem. If you fix both, you’ll have strong viability.”

So much for the Superdome's renovations being sufficient.

Granted, the state will be planning to continue inducements to the team, according to these quotes in the story by Larry Roedel, counsel for LSED, the Louisiana Sports and Exposition District that oversees the Superdome: “We hope to sit down with the team and discuss an extension beyond 2010, and that would include inducement payments. I don’t know if they’ll want more than what they’re getting.”

Surely they will - if Benson takes the plan he ran with after the Saints' first playoff win in 2000 (when the current $186 million inducement package was first negotiated).

Benson will want a new stadium built, probably with the state footing the bill. And he'll probably want more money for inducements from the state, to bring the team's profits up and make the franchise more valuable.

We shall see.

Saints fans, enjoy the heck out of this run. After the season this great flight might be hitting some major turbulence.

You'd think the vultures would have given up by now.

Guess again.

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News wants you to know that there were a lot of people from his city at the Superdome on Saturday in Tom Benson's suite.

Most of the article actually is positive and true. Benson does have a lot of business ties to San Antonio, and his friends from there want the Saints to succeed.

But the article twists the knife that still exists in the back of Saints Nation by quoting T.J. Connolly, a former spokesman for Benson:

"To go from 3-13 to the Super Bowl under these circumstances is material for a movie. But it doesn't mean New Orleans has the Saints forever. Being in the Super Bowl won't erase the challenges the city faces. It (New Orleans) still faces an uphill battle to sustain an NFL franchise.

"I don't want to dampen the excitement of this weekend or rain on anyone's parade, but you have to be realistic. And I'm not going to back away from saying the Saints are a prime candidate to relocate to San Antonio."
You've got to be kidding me.

News flash: The NFL has zero interest in having a team play there, particularly in an Alamodome that has around half the available suites and hundreds less available seats than the Superdome.

Yes, that Superdome. The one that sold every seat this season. The one San Antonio insisted wouldn't be half full in '06.

Besides, isn't San Antonio Cowboy country? Don't the Pokes conduct training camp there?

That Connolly and Orsborn don't want to rain on anyone's parade is an absolute crock.

San Antonio just won't quit kicking New Orleans and Louisiana while they are still hurting from Katrina and Rita, in an obvious effort to steal the Saints.

Thanks again.

By the way, if a few category five tornadoes rip through and devastate San Antonio, Baton Rouge will happily play host to the Spurs. Maybe they'll unabashedly emphasize San Antonio's inability to support them, and try to keep them there permanently.

Besides, they can't stay in San Antonio forever, can they?

Here's a couple of links, one somewhat positive and the other downright cold:

"Saint-elsewhere to Heaven-Saint" - Greg Couch, Chicago Sun-Times
"Saints, Hornets future in New Orleans in doubt" - Evan Weiner, New York Sun


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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Violent crime a problem that could drive Saints away

With all the great things that have happened with the New Orleans Saints this season, there is a very major problem taking place away from the football field and without any involvement of the team that could drive the franchise away from its home.

That problem, friends, is the ridiculous crime spree that has recently gripped the city.

I read earlier tonight that city officials are exploring options, including a curfew, in an attempt to fight off the senseless murders and violent crime that have continued to escalate.

Murders and violent crime unfortunately have been a New Orleans staple. Katrina was not able to wash that away, however, and the violence and bloodshed have come back with a vengeance.

Per capita, these types of criminal acts are at an all time high. Aside from that troubling fact alone, there are numerous other reasons to be greatly concerned.

For one, the nation has in a sense stopped paying attention to the city. In many people's eyes, why rebuild a city and send millions of aid when a substantial segment of the citizens are robbing and killing one another? This is especially so when the mayor of the gracious city of Houston has gone on record to state that the severe murder and violent crime uptick that city has suffered is to blame on Katrina evacuees who relocated there.

Why is there such an unencumbered criminal problem with some of these native New Orleanians? Why do these people resort to such violent acts? Why can't they clean up their act, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of innocent victims and, on a larger scale, the benefit of New Orleans?

The muggings and bloodshed are not just stealing the property and lives of innocent victims; they are also stealing the headlines.

Rare is the day that progress in New Orleans is hailed; instead, "several murders in a day" has been a story more often told.

And in that, these vigilantes are stealing potential recovery, and preventing it from truly taking strides forward.

The surge in an already insanely high crime area is discouraging people from moving back to New Orleans. It's also making people who did come back want to leave, and soon.

Businesses will probably be on the way out of town if the city is not reasonably safe, or if they cannot find qualified employees to work.

That brings us to the Saints.

While the NFL may not have wanted a public relations disaster on its hands by taking the team from New Orleans after Katrina, the public may be quite sympathetic to the league for the aforementioned reasons if the team relocates for its own good, and for the good of its employees.

The players, coaches, staffers, and their families who call New Orleans home will be included in the above category if things don't turn around soon.

And, if businesses begin to migrate out instead of into New Orleans, the Saints will probably be left to find another home. The team depends on support of local businesses in more ways than one. Local businesses hire local people, who then buy tickets and merchandise to support the Saints.

Take away part of this necessary lifeblood, and keep up the violence, and the team that once symbolized the return of a great city could also symbolize the impending death of it.

The killings must stop.

The muggings must stop.

The leaders of the city, the state, and the country must pull together, take control, and whip New Orleans into shape.

And quickly.

Because reasonable people and business owners will not put up with it for much longer.


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