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

Monday, January 22, 2007

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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