The Saints Ain’t Getting Justice

Bobby Curran
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Friday - September 30, 2005
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The NFL decision to move the New Orleans Saints’ first scheduled game to its opponent’s site was misguided. Calling it a home game was ludicrous. The New York Giants play at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Season tickets for Giants games are not only sold out, but the waiting list is seven Top 10 years long. The NFL announced that Saints fans would have first dibs on tickets, and some 1,500 were sold.

Who did the league think would purchase the rest?

Of course, they went to rabid Giants fans, many of whom were getting a rare opportunity to see their team play in person.


And except for some polite applause for Saints players during introductions, the crowd behaved just as you’d expect - in an entirely partisan manner.

After the Giants’ victory, New Orleans head coach Jim Haslett complained that it was unfair to his team. Saints QB Aaron Brooks was more direct. “Don’t patronize us,” said Brooks.

They both had a point.

The NFL not only missed the boat with the decision, but league officials seemed to miss the larger point. In times of stress, many people look to symbols like sports teams as a rallying point. Like so many displaced by Katrina, the Saints have been moved around to makeshift practice sites trying to prepare for their season, even while many players, coaches and staff deal with the loss of their homes, and some having to worry about the safety and future of family members.

So many people in New Orleans were thrilled when the Saints upset the Carolina Panthers in their season opener. To some citizens, the Saints represented the spirit of the recovery, a small sign that things would improve, that this tragedy could be overcome. They might be homeless and jobless, but they weren’t hopeless.

Reporters marveled at how the Houston Astrodome and its 30,000 refugees came alive during that opening game. Talk about the team was everywhere - for some it was the first time they’d smiled or laughed since the hurricane struck.

Why, then, put the game so far from Louisiana?


Yes, the NFL held a telethon, but the league could have shown tape of the sights around New Orleans and had a bigger impact on viewers. League officials balked at holding future Saints games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, pushing for San Antonio instead. A compromise will see the remaining Saints’ home games split between the two sites.

And now the Sugar Bowl has similar decisions to make. While Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan has been making the right noises about keeping the game in Louisiana, it has been announced that the Georgia Dome in Atlanta is an option. The Sugar Bowl has a huge economic impact on the city of New Orleans. A University of New Orleans study recently concluded that the game generates over $209 million, including almost $16 million in taxes.

While it may involve some serious logistical planning, wouldn’t it be great if the people of Louisiana get to demonstrate their pride and resourcefulness in keeping the Sugar Bowl in their home state?

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