The New Orleans Saints are a burden to the state of Louisiana.
Prior to the damage received by Hurricane Katrina, Saints owner Tom Benson demanded the state build a new facility or they were leaving. This was quickly followed by a demand that the state invest tax dollars in the team to offset Benson's financial losses (the lone NFL team "with a guaranteed cash subsidy from a state
"). Like a Mardi Gras reveler being beat by a New Orleans cop, the state succumbed.
The subsidies, to the tune of $15 million each, come from a state that, even before hurricanes Katrina and Rita, was in financial straits and historically ranks at the bottom of the barrel for teacher salaries
With the Superdome in such bad shape (and not expected to be reopened until November 2006
) and Benson's earlier demands for a new dome, what is the incentive for the team to come back? I see none for the state or its citizens other than a financial burden.
If the state's subsidy of the Saints isn't enough to show the ineptness of the team's owner, then it's clearly evident in his antics post-Hurricane Katrina. Benson's historic lack of decisiveness was thrown out of the window once he saw an opportunity to kick a down-and-out city and state in the groin after a category 4 punch to the gut. His quick decision to move the Saints to his home town of San Antonio and lack of emotion towards the city's population are inidicative Benson's acumen towards failure and elitism.
Let San Antonio have the team and its detestable owner. Louisiana needs an NFL team, but one with a knowledgeable owner who can see the forest and not just the trees. Yet, listening to the politicians and a handful of fans, the Saints seem to be the transcendental key to the state's survival.
By the way, the media —
local, state, national and international —
always note how New Orleans identifies the whole of Louisiana. They are wrong. This state is a diverse enigma of personalities, religions, terra firma, music, food and more. All too recently it was noted
that, "murder in New Orleans is so popular that, although the city's murder rate is lower than it was a decade ago, it's rising and is nearly 10 times the national average."
- The Shreveport Times: "The center has records to 1990 but the Saints didn't show up in the top 20 until 2000. It was after the Saints' first playoff game win in 2000 that Benson began demanding a new stadium. That demand led to the current 10-year, $186 million subsidy from the state that was signed in 2001 by then-Gov. Mike Foster -- a deal that calls for annual cash payments of $12.5 million to $23.5 million from the state to the team. The Saints is the only team in the National Football League with a guaranteed cash subsidy from a state, according to stadium financing specialist Dan Barrett of Barrett Sports Group of Manhattan Beach, Calif."
- BayouBuzz.com - Louisiana Politics and News: "One fan claimed this is a “Tom Benson conspiracy” to hold down ticket sales and make the local area look bad to the NFL. Well, it may have been the plan because there was almost no advertising spent prior to the game and only four people were hired to handle ticket sales. In addition, the Saints abandoned their local office, moving everything to San Antonio."
- Saints: Owner still undecided on return to Baton Rouge: "'I will not return to Baton Rouge for any reason, including any games scheduled for the end of this season or a contemplated next season,' Benson said in the e-mail. 'No person, much less the owner of NFL team, should have either he, his family or his friends subjected to this form of danger, intimidation and abuse. I was advised not to go but wanted to support the league.'"
- Dallas owner says it's not time to discuss Saints move: "But there have been reports Benson would like to move the team to San Antonio and has been talking to city officials there. He also fired executive vice president Arnold Fielkow, an outspoken proponent of keeping the team in New Orleans."
- LA Daily News - Sports: "In recent weeks, owner Tom Benson has left a trail of signs indicating that a move to San Antonio, where the Saints have been based the last two months, might be made permanent. There are also increasingly louder acknowledgments from within the NFL that the team may eventually end up in Los Angeles."
- Dem Saints: A team only New Orleans could love: "Saints quarterback Brooks was hit hard as he delivered one errant pass. 'Hey, that's roughing the passer,' someone yelled. Said Larry, dryly, 'Nah, that would infer that he can pass.'"
- Will they go marching out?: "Saints fans see a level of looming infamy that not even the most notorious exit scenes in sports could match, not the Browns abandoning Cleveland, the Rams bolting from Los Angeles, the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn or the Colts packing up trucks in the middle of a Baltimore night."
- HoustonChronicle.com - State officials work to keep Saints in New Orleans: "In a letter this month to the Saints, state officials said they are willing to discuss adding enhancements to the Superdome to help boost team profits. Although he envisioned the Saints remaining in New Orleans, Tagliabue said they needed to become more of a Louisiana, or even a regional team. The state and Saints need to take a fresh look at the team's deal with Louisiana, Taqliabue said."
- Page 2: Benson should say good-bye: "I can't begin to relate to the losses of lives -- and lifes -- in this hurricane-ravaged region. Homes destroyed, identities lost. But I do know this: Nothing can reunite a community like a sports team."