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newshound 05-22-2005 03:12 PM

Saints impasse needs new script
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Peter Finney
Here's what should be going on right now.

Tom Benson should be holding a press conference. The owner of the Saints should be telling his football public something like: "For some time, we've been in serious discussions with Gov. Blanco on the future of our state's and our city's NFL franchise. I think the governor appreciates our situation as a small-market team trying to compete with teams in far larger markets. Saying this, I also understand and appreciate the fiscal problems facing the governor. It's my hope we can come to an arrangement fair to both sides because I know the governor realizes what the Saints mean to our state and the city of New Orleans.

"Gov. Blanco wants the Saints to remain here as much as I want them to stay. While negotiations continue, understanding that difficult give-and-take choices have to be made, I'm asking our loyal fans to get behind us, to support us in the upcoming season, to show us the support they've given us over the 20 years I've been owner. We intend to merit that support this season. See you in the Superdome."

That's what should be happening.

Sad to say, folks, we're dealing with a different script.

Here we are at a time the Saints should be making their annual season-ticket push, chatting up an 8-8 team that closed 2004 with four straight victories, and what do we have?

We have Tom Benson's lead attorney saying the owner is thinking of taking the team to San Antonio.

Or Albuquerque.

Or selling it for a billion dollars, no doubt as the newly christened L.A. Saints.

It made me say: Please come back, Jim Finks.

If the late Jim Finks still was running the front office for Tom Benson, which would mean Jim would have been in charge of public relations, there is no way he would have allowed the kind of dumb, stupid, off-the-wall PR move that boggles the mind.

With Benson's interest at heart, Finks would have had Benson playing the diplomat, not appearing to be some arrogant owner who gave the governor the back of his hand.

Finks would be working behind the scenes, wooing politicians on Benson's behalf, trying to find common ground, all the while realizing that if Benson truly wanted to keep his team in New Orleans, he would strike the best deal, and enhance his legacy, with a modicum of public restraint.

Jim Finks would be working overtime to keep Tom Benson and Gov. Blanco talking, across a table, one on one, on and on.

A man who came within a whisker of being voted NFL commissioner, Finks would have functioned as the ideal middleman between an owner and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, between an owner and a governor, pointing out what the Saints mean to the league.

At the moment, what we have is an owner asking fans to buy tickets to a football home, the Superdome, the owner has trashed, even though it has hosted six Super Bowls, one as recently as 2002.

Now, owing to more recent events, we have an owner asking his football public to support a team that his attorney said the owner wants to take bye-bye. All this with the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks less than three months away.

Go figure.

As we speak, I'm interested in seeing what comes out of this week's owners meeting regarding the pressing matter of putting a team in Los Angeles -- pressing, that is, to the commissioner, not apparently to the City of Angels.

Since the Rams and Raiders left town, 19 stadiums for NFL teams have been built or have undergone major renovations.

A vacant L.A. is killing Tagliabue, who heard the county's leading economist say during the recent mayoral election: "We've lived quite a while without the NFL and found we can live quite well without it. I applaud the candidates for mayor for not bringing up the NFL."

Meanwhile, you have a professor on public policy weighing in: "The question is, what are the benefits and costs? Is having the premier port on the West Coast more important than bringing an NFL team to L.A.?"

Also a sports economist, who opined on a possible home for an NFL team: "There are only two things you do not want on a valuable piece of real estate. One is a cemetery. The other is a football stadium."

Finally, there is the sports columnist talking about growing up as a parent in L.A.: "I have three boys who think the NFL is something on PlayStation."

Makes you think tying those letters together -- L.A. and NFL -- will be a hard sell.

WhoDat 05-22-2005 06:48 PM

RE: Saints impasse needs new script
Now that's a great article. I hadn't thought about Finks in a while. That man is sorely missed by this franchise as a GM in every sense of the word. RIP Jim, you were the best this franchise ever had... and we may never do better.

ScottyRo 05-22-2005 10:24 PM

RE: Saints impasse needs new script
Everytime Loomis pulls a mickey, I think of Jim. No other Saints' Gm deserves to be mentioned even in the same article as he.

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