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, April 24, 2007

T-P's Duncan pens great analysis; Blog update

Here's a link to a great article by the Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan that summarizes pretty much everything that has happened with the Saints, and the prospects going forward.

Not much more to say - it's a must read.


In the meantime, I've been thinking about what this blog's future is after news that the Saints are staying through 2010. There will be no relocation issues until then, if at all - barring another unforeseen disaster like Katrina.

Having said that, there is little to update. Thus, I don't know if there will be future postings, at least for the short term future. If another disaster does come along, the site will remain and the updates will continue.

Meanwhile, I am pondering putting together the postings of the blog, along with some other information and reflective analysis, into a book about the ultimate irony of Katrina's destruction actually saving the Saints from leaving New Orleans. If you have any feedback in that regard, it would be greatly appreciated -

Other than that, I will be renewing my season tickets, watching the draft, and waiting with great anticipation until the season finally kicks off.

Geaux Saints, and thanks for reading.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

More on Saints deal to stay in New Orleans through 2010

Here's an updated version of the Times-Picayune article by Jeff Duncan on the Saints' deal with the state to not invoke exit clauses and remain in New Orleans through 2010.

A few quick thoughts:
(1) Governor Kathleen Blanco said that negotiations are geared towards a deal that would keep the Saints in New Orleans through at least 2025, if not longer. Those negotiations will likely be concluded with her successor.
(2) Saints owner Tom Benson was positive and optimistic, but remained noncommittal to the team's prospects beyond 2010. He noted that a lot of improvements to the Superdome still need to be completed, but didn't commit to whether he thought the 31-year-old stadium would be sufficient beyond 2010.
(3) The league apparently is looking at reconstruction of New Orleans over the next three to four years as a critical factor in determining whether the team stays put beyond 2010. In other words, our politicians need to really step up to the plate and deliver. The next governor will be instrumental in whether the team stays or goes.
(4) Benson wants to continue receiving annual inducement payments from the state to remain in New Orleans; Blanco wants to end those payments. Previous NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was very critical of the inducement payment setup. It's not clear whether current commissioner Roger Goodell favors them or not. This issue will be critical to a long-term deal, and again, the next governor will be instrumental in this. As an aside, Benson has supported Bobby Jindal through financial contributions to his campaign dating back to 2004. Obviously Jindal's election would be tremendously beneficial to the long term prospects of the Saints remaining home in New Orleans.


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Monday, March 26, 2007

BREAKING: Saints, state agree to drop exit clauses; Saints will stay in New Orleans through 2010

Several media outlets are reporting this morning that the Saints and the state of Louisiana have reached an agreement to drop exit clauses from their current lease agreement so that the team can remain in New Orleans until at least 2010. A news conference will be held today at 10 a.m.

As it should be and usually is, the most descriptive account comes from the Times-Picayune. Jeff Duncan writes that the agreement includes a commitment from the state to continue improvements to the Superdome, which are still ongoing.

Today's news means the Saints will not leave New Orleans for the next four years, and that franchise officials and the next governor of Louisiana will focus on hammering out a long-term deal over that same time period.

Because regurgitating the very informative article by Duncan on this very positive development would leave out some information, you can read the entire piece here.

Friends, toast this one - it's great news!


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Friday, March 23, 2007

Positive news: Owners meeting talk furthers confirmation of San Antonio being out of the mix, L.A. on backburner

With the NFL's annual owners meeting set to begin this weekend in Phoenix, a few key issues regarding the Saints have been brought to light by the New York Sun's Evan Weiner in this article today.

Perhaps most importantly, Weiner confirms earlier reports that San Antonio is pretty much done as an NFL relocation option. Weiner writes:
"[T]he city of San Antonio has been relegated to the sidelines, having abandoned its search for an NFL (or Major League Baseball) franchise, which further limits the threat of relocation by the Yorks, Spanos, Wilf, or Saints owner Tom Benson. San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas, officials thought they were players in the stadium game until last week, when they were led to forfeit after neither NFL nor MLB officials expressed interest in the city.

"Perhaps San Antonio officials shouldn't have been surprised. The city's Alamodome was a stateof-the-art football facility when it opened in 1993 — but that was 14 years ago. Today, the multipurpose facility requires hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations.

"The San Antonio–Austin, Texas area is also a weak television market with a limited corporate base. The region's corporate community and rank-and-file ticket buyers already show their support for the NBA's Spurs. (San Antonio also has a baseball team in the Double A Texas League and an American Hockey League club.) A second major league franchise in San Antonio could result in a financial calamity for both the Spurs and the new team. There is just not enough of a market to sustain both.

"Even after Benson took his Saints from the Katrina-ravaged Superdome to play three games at the Alamodome, NFL officials remained convinced that San Antonio was simply not much of a market for pro football. Part of that reasoning may be attributable to Jerry Jones, whose Cowboys trained in San Antonio in 2002 and 2003 and will return this summer for training camp. Jones has signed a five-year deal with city officials, which grants him rent-free use of the Alamodome. San Antonio is part of the Dallas market and the league may be wary of cutting into McNair's Houston Texans revenue stream."
In other (and fewer) words, San Antonio is out of the running for a potential Saints relocation.

Next in terms of importance, Weiner writes that the NFL's Los Angeles dream is still just that, and it looks increasingly unlikely that a move will be made to that market in the short-term future. It is a "city without a state-of-the-art stadium" and possibilities for stadium sites in the L.A. area have fallen apart over the last few months.

Adding to the L.A. problem is the revelation by Weiner that the league's stadium-building subsidy program, also known as G-3, has emptied its coffers. In order to replenish this fund, owners may have to re-tool revenue sharing. Until that happens, it is likely that no discussion of building a stadium in Los Angeles can even begin to take place.

In short, the L.A. option is now dead.

Without San Antonio and Los Angeles as viable prospective relocation options, Benson has very little leverage in hinting a relocation from New Orleans - especially when season tickets are sold out and have a wait list 25,000 deep, and all Superdome suites are also sold out.

Friends, things are looking increasingly positive that the Saints will stay home in New Orleans beyond 2010, when their current agreement with Louisiana expires.

Now, we wait with baited breath for news on negotiations between Benson and the state, which we expect to hear within the next week.

With current governor Kathleen Blanco's announcement that she is not running for re-election this November, the pressure is off her politically to solidify a deal. But the pressure is on her to do so to help repair her incredibly fractured legacy. And, conversely, the pressure on Benson to not deal with someone he'd probably prefer not to benefit politically is off of him. (Recall his support for Bobby Jindal in 2003's gubernatorial election.) So, who knows how things will turn out?

In any event, the odds are steadily swinging in favor of the Saints staying in New Orleans. Keep your fingers crossed, and stay optimistic.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BREAKING: Blanco to announce she won't seek re-election

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco will announce tonight that she will not seek re-election this fall. No word on how this will impact the Saints negotiations, but check back here for updates...


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S.A. Express News columnist says city should 'surrender to reality', give up on seeking Saints

San Antonio Express-News columnist Richard Oliver has penned a piece for today's edition entitled "It's time for S.A. to focus on itself", wherein he wrote that the city should "surrender to reality" and give up trying to rip the Saints from New Orleans.

The column, which focuses not only on the Saints but all professional sports, is a follow-up to recent news in San Antonio that a consultant told the city pretty much the same thing.

Oliver also devoted two paragraphs to the Saints, their owner, and their fans:
"Here in New Orleans, where the Saints' resurgence from disaster has taken them from South Texas to the NFC title game two months ago, the team announced this week that it has sold 68,000 season tickets for the 2007 campaign. Additionally, it is closing in on selling out its 137 luxury suites at the resurrected Superdome, again a sparkling downtown centerpiece.

"No matter owner Tom Benson's longing gazes toward the west, battered New Orleans has put its money where its heart is."
Oliver failed to also point out that the season ticket wait list now runs over 25,000 deep. But he gets the point, and kudos to him for being somebody from that city who recognizes that the Saints belong in New Orleans, the fans have shown their support in record-breaking fashion, Benson now seems focused on keeping the team in New Orleans, and the league just is not interested in moving a team to San Antonio.

Now, if certain others (i.e. Red McCombs) get the memo, maybe we can finally stop hearing about San Antonio trying to steal the Saints.

In the meantime, we just need to see how negotiations between Benson and the state pan out. Hopefully we'll have some indication on that front within the next 11 days or so.


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Monday, March 19, 2007

Saints, state in ongoing negotiations; News blackout prevails

Today's Times-Picayune reports that the Saints and the state of Louisiana are involved in ongoing negotiations toward a goal of keeping the franchise in New Orleans beyond 2010, when the current lease agreement expires.

An apparent deadline exists for the new deal of March 31, which is the final date when the Saints can opt out of the lease agreement by payment of a penalty of over $61 million.

As part of the negotiations, both parties have agreed to a news blackout, meaning no new information will surface until, state officials say, all terms of a new agreement are finalized.

Obviously, it would be a major development if a new deal was ironed out (and would also end the reason for this site's existence). While there are efforts to prevent new news from being disseminated, keep checking back here for any updates.


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Thursday, March 15, 2007

UPDATE: Saints sell out suites for 2007 season; Season ticket wait list 25,000 deep; San Antonio finally giving up?

In a somewhat stunning (and exciting) development, the Times-Picayune is reporting that state officials have announced that the Saints have completely sold all available Superdome suites for the entire 2007 season. (The updated story is available here.)

The Times-Picayune also states that the team's fans will repeat last year's feat, and buy all season tickets for 2007 as well. Plus, the Saints have a season ticket waiting list that now extends over 25,000 deep (which is just mind-boggling).

It's an incredibly positive development for the long-term viability of the franchise in New Orleans. Rita Benson LeBlanc was quoted in the article to say, "We are extremely appreciative of the support we received from fans and local businesses last season and are very encouraged with the response so far in 2007. We are hard at work to make sure the Saints are successful, both on and off the field, and look forward to announcing any team milestones when they are achieved." (An official team announcement will take place after March 31, the deadline for payment for the suites.)

This news further makes it increasingly difficult to reasonably relocate the franchise from New Orleans.

Also, the article quotes Tim Coulon, chairman of the Superdome Commission, as calling this a "milestone."

And, the original article quotes LSED commissioner Robert Bruno as responding to the New York Times article cited here in saying, "This is important because we've has such unfair and wrong criticism about the suites, the Saints, the Dome and other issues. It's definitely time to strike back."

Celebrate this one, Saints fans. It's a special development that should go a long way in terms of keeping the Saints in New Orleans.

The San Antonio Express-News reports today that the city may finally be quitting its vulturistic behavior toward New Orleans and will instead focus on its own city's developments.

Consultant Michael Sculley has informed the city that based on conversations with the NFL and MLB, city officials should use tax revenues on matters other than attempting to attract other professional sports franchises to San Antonio.

Most interestingly, local judge Nelson Wolff, who has been quoted in other pieces for items related to the Saints, told the Express-News that new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told him in January that the league had zero interest in having a franchise in San Antonio.

Yet here we sit, two months later, and some in the city are still debating the issue.

Thanks yet again, San Antonio.

At least they're taking it well. Or maybe they're not.

Sculley was quoted as saying, "I think we need to be proactive and tell (the NFL and MLB), 'You've turned your back on us long enough. It's time we take care of our own.'"

After its actions over the last year and a half, San Antonio should know plenty about turning its back on other cities.


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Friday, March 09, 2007

New York Sun shines spotlight on Benson, Saints, San Antonio; Two vultures that just won't quit

Today's New York Sun shines a quick spotlight on the professional sports situation in New Orleans, largely rehashing what is already known to those keeping up with the Saints' off-the-field location issues.

The article, entitled "Pro Sports Far From Easy in New Orleans" by Evan Weiner (who also penned this piece in January's Sun), doesn't contain any earth-shattering news. Perhaps the only real "news" from the article regarding the Saints is that it does state that a former possible plan to move the Saints to Mississippi is no longer on the table.

In this recent San Antonio Business Journal article (which reviewed a poll that revealed most people in San Antonio - by a 2-to-1 margin - do not believe the Saints will relocate there), two prominent vultures are still circling New Orleans with hopes of stealing the Saints from their home city.

The article names former Vikings owner Red McCombs and former Valero Energy Corp. chairman Bill Greehey as the two vultures who just won't give up. They told the Business Journal that "the city may still have an opportunity to land the Saints."

This after the Saints have had exactly one season since Katrina, wherein they sold out the entire Superdome and sold more suites than the Alamodome could ever wish to hold.

Thanks again for your support, San Antonio.


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Friday, March 02, 2007

Horn: Saints wanted to move to San Antonio

Former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn (it's strange typing that) lashed out at his former team in today's Fayetteville Observer regarding his release.

While much will be said about other comments he has made as of late, one stood out to me more than the rest:
"If I wanted out of New Orleans that bad, I would have just kept my mouth shut and let them move the team to San Antonio."
While many will point to the subtle and arrogant perspective that Horn had that much power to prevent such a move, what I take from it is a statement from the former face of the franchise that the team was intending on moving to San Antonio, and that he at least strenuously voiced his opposition.

Not that this wasn't obvious from the team's actions in late 2005 pre-Tagliabue intervention. But from what I can recall, it's the first time that a potential " San Antonio" has been publicly stated by someone from the inside in these terms.

Maybe I'm wrong on that and have forgotten some previous comments. At the moment I don't have time to run back through previous posts from late 2005 and early 2006. (When I have more time I'll go back through and double-check this.)

But that's what struck me.

Other than that, it's sad to see Joe go, and I hate that this is how it's happening. He should be a future Saints Hall of Famer who will be missed and fondly remembered.


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Friday, February 16, 2007

Great Saints animation

Here's a link to a funny and very well done Saints animation, courtesy the Times-Picayune:



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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MARKED TURN: Blanco hopeful Saints will stay 'at least through 2010'; Team apparently considering exercising exit clause by March 31

Today's New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco is hopeful that the Saints will not cancel their present lease through exercising of the team's $61 million exit clause, and that they will stay put in New Orleans "until at least 2010."

Blanco told the Times-Picayune, "Our people are in talks. I think we are going to get a consensus (for the Saints) to stay at least through 2010. We are hoping that they don't (exercise the exit clause). I feel like discussions are leading them to staying until at least 2010."

It's a marked turn from previous discussions, where the talk was that the team would remain in New Orleans at least through 2010 when the present lease expires. It has been widely assumed that the team's $61 million exit clause, which was reduced from $81 million in July 2006, would not be exercised.

In fact, in September 2006 it was reported in the Times-Picayune that the team itself announced it would not exercise the exit clause.

(At the time, I questioned whether such an announcement actually took place. It's the only time I read this, and such news has not been indicated since.)

Now, it seems that Tom Benson may in fact utilize that exit clause (he has until March 31 to do so). Why else would Blanco say that people are in talks to keep the team under its present lease? Why else would she say that she hopes the team will stay "at least through 2010"?

Either something very troublesome to Saints fans is going on behind closed doors, or Blanco misspoke.

For what it's worth, Saints spokesman Greg Bensel is quoted in the article as saying that the team won't have any comment "until there is something to report; right now, there is nothing to report."

The article also notes, "The state has the right to cancel the contract after the 2007 season or by March 2008." It's a virtual certainty that the state will not pull the plug on the present deal. To do so would be the death knell of the Saints in New Orleans, initiated by the state and not the team.

Another key note is that Blanco has gone on the record as saying that the state will not pay any more than it has already agreed to pay in the previous agreement. To quote the article, Blanco said, "We are not going to enhance the money" in the present lease, which was hammered out in 2001 for 10 years and $186.5 million. The state is set to pay the Saints $20 million this summer, and owes the team $23.5 million after each of the remaining seasons under the current lease.

It's the only agreement of its kind in professional sports, and has been criticized not only by Blanco, but also by previous NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Presumably the two sides will work towards an alternative agreement to keep the team in New Orleans after 2010.

As for now, based on Blanco's comments, it appears the state is trying to coax the team from leaving by March 31.

Stay tuned...


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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Goodell: Saints a 'great story' but no long-term commitment made; NFL-to-L.A. a dead issue

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his first "State of the League" address on Friday, and he noted that the Saints were a "great story" but failed to extend any sort of long-term commitment to New Orleans.

Goodell was quoted in this story by Mike Triplett in today's Times-Picayune as saying:
"I think the New Orleans Saints and the whole Gulf Coast region has been a great story for the NFL this year, not just because of the Saints' success on the field, but also because of what you're seeing the team has done for that community. It's obviously a community that was tragically impacted. It is still going through a recovery period. But we're very proud of the fact that Tom Benson brought his Saints back there very early last year, before we even knew we had a place to play.

"The Saints brought hope back to their community, and people like Drew Brees and his wife have done great work there. We're proud of what the Saints have done, and our hats are off to Tom Benson and his group for doing it."
It's a great thing that Goodell acknowledges that the area is still in recovery mode and that the team has done great things for the community. Hopefully that relationship will continue, but the commish was noncommital when asked directly about the long-term viability of the Saints in New Orleans.

Also, to be fair, Goodell gives praise to Tom Benson when Goodell's predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, should be given a lot of credit for influencing Benson to keep the Saints in New Orleans. However, that's not to say that Benson hasn't done a lot of good since the Katrina debacle and the Tagliabue intervention. He has. Let's just hope he keeps it up.

And, Saints senior vice president Dennis Lauscha told Triplett that the Saints are interested in hosting another Super Bowl, but a new long-term lease agreement with Louisiana and the Superdome and completion of Superdome repairs are first in line.

With the offseason officially beginning after tonight's Super Bowl, negotiations between the Saints and Louisiana for that long-term lease should get underway soon. Keep an eye here for updates.

A Los Angeles Daily News column by Steve Dilbeck notes that Goodell's comments at the aforementioned "State of the League" address were not positive in terms of the NFL's return to L.A.

Goodell is quoted in the piece as saying, "We need to find a solution in LosAngeles that works for both the community and the NFL. It's important for us to be in LosAngeles long-term. But we've survived quite well without Los Angeles. Los Angeles has survived quite well without the NFL."

And, Dilbeck writes, "[R]ight now it is so far removed from being a priority to the league it barely earns a mention."

He also points out that the cost to build a stadium in Los Angeles would be upwards of $1 billion. Previous plans were that these costs would be footed by the league. Perhaps they made those thoughts public before knowing how much it would really cost, and that's one reason the NFL has cold feet about L.A.

And, L.A. is tired of being used as a relocation threat, writes Dilbeck:
"Los Angeles will always hold appeal, but even after years of using it to extort new stadiums out of existing NFL cities, the country is getting wise to the concept that there is no reasonable stadium solution here. The sky can only be falling so many times. There is no working solution even near the table."
Which means that the Saints will not be moving to Los Angeles in the near future, unless something changes dramatically on the NFL-to-L.A. front.

And that's great news for Saints fans.


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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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