In the wake of Katrina, Tom Benson has it all wrong
Posted: Wednesday September 14, 2005 2:07PM; Updated: Wednesday September 14, 2005 2:07PM
Tom Benson has mishandled the Saints future in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
After 9/11 much was made about the healing power of sports, about the role the games we followed played in our return to normalcy. Perhaps it was overstated by people who wanted to watch baseball and not feel guilty, but as someone who's lived in New York for 10 years, I can tell you there was something reassuring in seeing things work their way back to normal.
More important to me, though, was seeing the outpouring of genuine emotion in other cities from fans, players and broadcasters. The poem Jack Buck read before the St. Louis Cardinals' first game back didn't make anyone forget Walt Whitman -- on paper, as they say in baseball, it was a bit hokey. But there was no way you could watch him recite it and not be overwhelmed by the depth of the man's feeling and his sincere sympathy. It was amazing. So were the little things, such as the NYPD, FDNY and PAPD hats players wore.
So to me, at least, it wasn't the games that made me feel better, it was that flush feeling that came with knowing we weren't alone and seeing people were thinking about us and supporting us.
I bring this up because I can't help but wonder what the hell is wrong with Saints owner Tom Benson. First, a Saints executive vice president told a New Orleans TV station that Benson didn't want to give ticket holders refunds for games that were moved from the Superdome, and that he was working on a scheme to move the team without having to pay a penalty to the state. (Benson ultimately came around on the refunds. In a statement he released to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the VP, Arnold D. Fielkow, sounded like he regretted leaking the story, but he never backed off it.) And a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Benson gave his front-office staff -- many of whom lost their homes -- one week to decide if they wanted to move to San Antonio with the team. He offered to pay for housing for the team's coaches, players and their families for just two weeks.
Then on Monday, at a press conference to announce the Saints would play three games in San Antonio, the mayor, Phil Hardberger, beamed that the games would bring the city a $9 million windfall. He was asked if any of that would be donated to relief efforts in New Orleans. His response: "That would be the Saints' call." So Benson was asked the same question. And here's what he said: