Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I certainly have no problem with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson considering moving his team permanently to San Antonio -- the Superdome is most likely irreparably damaged, 25,000 season tickets is not a very strong fan base, and of course, he owns the team, so he has the right to do with it as he wishes -- but my God, the timing. It's difficult to understand how any human being could be thinking about such matters when most of the city is still underwater.

But it's not Benson's job to be thinking about the people of New Orleans. It's his job to run his business, and right now, any owner would be foolish to keep his franchise in a city that might not even exist in the same place next year, and especially one that wasn't doing a great job of supporting the team to begin.

Those villifying Benson right now are convienently overlooking who leaked this story. Benson didn't call a press conference to announce he was considering the move -- a Louisiana state senator gave the story to the press, and suddenly nails are being handed out, nails that should already be marked for those in government who failed miserably in both planning for and responding to this disaster.

Has anyone considered that perhaps not having to worry about a pro football franchise would be good for New Orleans right now? And why would the city and the state be concerned about the departure of the Saints when they certainly have much weightier issues facing them? Is the first priority of the Louisiana legislature really going to be making sure the Saints have everything they need? It shouldn't be, and hopefully it won't.

I know the argument about the Saints being a part of the history of New Orleans, and how the government has helped the franchise through tax abatements and other incentives. That's hogwash. It's a business, and businesses move when it's best for them. As for money, the state of Louisiana would receive $81 million in rebates from Benson, money that could probably be put to better use than fixing the Superdome. And if New Orleans comes back bigger and badder than ever, does anyone think the NFL wouldn't put an expansion franchise there? Or someone else wouldn't move and take advantage of it?

And so why would Benson be pilloried for considering what's best for him and his business? Ask yourself this -- if you were in New Orleans right now and someone offered you a chance to move to a better business situation, especially to leave the calamitous mess the Saints face right now, would you? If you answered in the negative, I suggest you probably wouldn't be running a business in the first place.

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