08 December 2005

Jim Henderson's Commentary/Abandoners Tom Benson and Craig S. Miller

Following is WWL's Jim Henderson's weekly Saints commentary (LINK) from Monday evening. As usual he says it as it is.

Saints give fans so many reasons to stay away

San Antonio is supposed to be the transplanted home of the Saints Nation, but if you looked in the morning paper in San Antonio on Monday, you realize that it’s still Cowboy Country. Page One touts the Cowboys and Giants game from Sunday. The Saints and Bucs are on Page Eight.

A chart on the one and only page devoted to Saints coverage notes that the two games in the Alamodome have averaged over 62,000 fans, while those in Baton Rouge have averaged just over 42,000.

No doubt this disparity was pointed out to Paul Tagliabue by Tom Benson during his visit Monday.

As the commissioner tours the team’s practice facility that Tom Benson called unusable, in San Antonio, the Saints operation is on the move again because of a volleyball tournament in the Alamodome. The commish may not be aware of that.

That lack of stability and reliability cannot be tolerated again, according to Jim Haslett and it shouldn’t be. But it should be noted that Saints fans have tolerated a lack of stability and reliability in this organization for most of its existence. Hopefully someone pointed that out to Tagliabue during his visit.

Their message to the commissioner should be this: Don’t be duped by the attendance comparison between San Antonio and Baton Rouge. San Antonio has hosted the only “home” Saints win this season and the other game was the season’s most entertaining – a loss to the Falcons.

Find out how many tickets get sold – not distributed – for the Lions’ game on the Alamodome on Christmas Eve.

If you could have made the game Sunday in Baton Rouge, you could have seen why there’s a perceived lack of support for this football team at this time – we have another losing football team, a head coach with little support from the fans, a quarterback with less and an owner with none.

The fans of this team may not be in the same places, but they’re still out there and they’ll make the effort to come back – just give them a reason to come back, instead of so many to stay away.

Sorry about that ice storm that kept you away from Baton Rouge Sunday. No hard feelings. No one should be blamed for being the victims of the weather – should they?

New Orleans-native Tom Benson has had so much smoke blown up his ass by the pro-San Antonio crowd including Mayor Phil Hardberger its ridiculous. As Fitch N. DarDar points out in a previous post, the attitude of Mr. Hardberger and the chamber of commerce/cheerleader-types of San Antonio is typical of the rah-rah business at any price attitude wrapped into the Texas psyche. It doesn't matter who they screw so long as they get the prize. "That's business, ya'll."

Both the New Orleans Saints and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse owe their existence and fortune to the City of New Orleans. Yes, both are businesses and as such their purpose is to make money for its owners. 10-4. Got it. And yes, there is no question that conditions here are not going to be the easiest in the near future. However, a component of the continued viability of New Orleans is its exisitng and future business community. Both of these corporations could play a lead role in helping sustain New Orleans and help the city by sending a message to the national business community that New Orleans may be down but not out and they are committed to at least trying to remain here. Instead they have decided they'd rather cut and run and head to apparent greener pastures. I would argue that both have moral and ethical obligations to do their part in helping New Orleans by commiting to it but apparently Tom Benson and Ruth's Chris Sellout CEO Craig S. Miller have a different opinion. The past means nothing to these people. In Tom Benson's case as a native New Orleanian this disregard for the past is even more disheartening than with Craig S. Miller who had "relocating to Florida" written all over him from the onset of being hired.

Since KTMB, everytime Tom Benson opens his mouth its like gasoline on a fire to the point of him either being really stupid, or with the purposeful intention of sabatoge (or a combination of both). NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue comes in here Monday and tours the area and then gives a press conference. Not a peep from Tom Benson. Nothing. Can't you just hear the NFL PR guys telling him that he's not going to say a public word during any of the day's events? (Think of Judge Smails in CADDYSHACK: "You'll have (say) nothing and like it!") The last few public statements that Benson has emitted in the past couple of weeks have been negative comment after negative comment about the conditions and future of the City of New Orleans (the hospital system is in disaray, the education system is in shambles, etc., etc.) to legitimize and push his position that New Orleans is no longer a suitable location for his team. Selfish Mr. Benson has no concern for the implications of such statements further stigmitizing New Orleans to the rest of the country and the world just so long as he gets his way. Hasn't our population gone through enough? How about demoralizing your fellow New Orleanians just a little more, Mr. Benson? A displaced New Orleanian in Houston can stop and think: Hmmmm, wait, maybe Tom is right. I shouldn't go back--New Orleans is finished. Its done. I think I'll just stay here in Houston. Too much trouble to go back.

Thanks for perpetuating that rationale with your statements, Mr. Benson.

Both the offices of the Saints and Ruth's Chris Sellout were not located within the City of New Orleans but in non-catastrophically flooded Metairie. Mr. Benson stated early on that their state of the art training facililty (built with State of Louisiana monies, by the way) was trashed by FEMA/national guard, etc. following its use as a staging area during the "Brownie" days following the storm. Unuseable he said--later to be proven a blatant lie. It was said to help further build the case for relocation despite what reality may be.

I honestly don't know the extent of damage to the office building Ruth's Chris Sellout was based in. It is an area that did flood from the overflowing of the drainage canal in the Veterans Boulevard median, and its possible the building did sustain roof damage possibly leading to water damage from rain. I don't discount thats a possiblility as many similarly constructed buildings in Jefferson had this sort of damage . . . . (I will look into this.) Regardless, Miller could have chosen to make it work in New Orleans post-KTMB, but didn't want to be troubled with such things when a nice, newly renovated office space awaited in Orlando (juiced with tax incentives).

Then there is the housing issue. The Times-Picayune stated the other day that over 95% of the players/staff do not live within the City (the majority live in Jefferson, St. Charles, or St. Tammany) and only one player had a guarenteed loss of his home (I assume it was in Eastover). One player lives within a block of me in New Orleans and his house was flood-free. So the reality is that the majority of New Orleans Saints employees got through this event with very minimal personal loss. But yet Mr. Benson has cited housing concerns for his employees as another reason not to come back. In the case of Ruth's Chris Sellout corporate employees, I am sure they were much more likely to be impacted by the flooding--especially in Lakeview I would think. But then again many of them likely live outside of the City in the suburbs.

In conclusion, the reality is that KTMB and her aftermath provided Tom Benson and Craig S. Miller the excuse they needed to escape from New Orleans to places they think will be more receptive to their businesses. Both entities have been in existence for nearly 40 years and both have reaped the unquestionable loyalty, support, and financial gain from the citizens of New Orleans and the region throughout those years. Now, that doesn't matter and its not enough . . . . I sure hope both Benson and Miller can look at themselves in the mirror. And remember BOYCOTT RUTH'S CHRIS STEAKHOUSE.

Oh wait--whats this? Rumblings about Entergy's corporate headquarters potentially not returning to New Orleans??? Hmmm, maybe Benson and Miller are on to something. Stay tuned . . .

Email me: seymourdfair@gmail.com


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