'We cannot be complacent with playing good but not winning games," Marty Schottenheimer said after losing to Denver on Sunday. The Chargers gained 41 yards in the second half of that game. FEMA personnel are still searching for the "playing good" team Marty talked about. Regard, if you have the stomach, the Chargers' 2005 schedule. The team we saw in Week 1 and Week 2 could lose every game.
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I'm sure you'll join me in welcoming the Los Angeles Saints to Southern California. When an ancient North American city is abruptly plopped to the bottom of a bathtub and left to soak, only to be pulled out and handed 200 billion no-bid, no-oversight, cost-plus dollars, well, that will create a new lineup of winners and losers. Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints, is going to be one of the winners.
Benson has been whining about money for years, which is unsurprising; this is what NFL owners do. Tom bought the franchise in 1985 for $75 million. The Saints' record since then is 157 wins against 164 losses, six playoff appearances amounting to five losses in the opening wild-card round and one loss in the divisional round. Nowadays, the franchise is valued between $700 million and $1 billion. Tom does not own a stadium, does not manufacture anything, and does not grow anything. Tom owns hundreds of extra-large football uniforms and assorted, exotic, athletic equipment.
We've got to get into this business.
Getting back to the point, it's not Tom's proven incompetence that causes him to field lousy teams year after year. No, it's because of the Superdome, which has been the site of 30 Sugar Bowls, 5 Super Bowls, and 3 NCAA Final Fours. See, the Superdome does not have enough luxury suites, and if somebody doesn't build Tom a new Superdome with plenty of luxury suites, Tom promises to move his team to San Antonio or sell it to Los Angeles investors.
Louisiana is a small, poor state, and New Orleans, before it went under, was a small, poor, metropolitan city. Therefore, the State of Louisiana, knowing it would never reclaim an NFL franchise once the Saints left, agreed to pay Benson a ransom of $2 million for every home game he played in New Orleans. Since 2001, the state has paid our lad at least $81 million.
The contract Benson signed says he must stay in New Orleans through 2010, with some exceptions. Benson can leave after the 2005 season if he pays the state the $81 million he's received. Or, he could leave and not pay one dime if he is subject to force majeure, an act of god, something like a hurricane that damaged the Superdome to the extent that the property was unusable. Then Benson could leave without penalty.
It took Tom one heartbeat to move his team to San Antonio, where he lives and owns -- what else? -- car dealerships. Reports say the NFL had to drag Benson back to Louisiana, force him to play four home games at LSU. The Saints will commute to their home games since their front-office personnel, players, and coaches have already moved to San Antonio.
New Orleans officials say insurance will cover rebuilding the Superdome. This is the same industry that is being sued by the State of Mississippi for refusing to pay their homeless policyholders, claiming that water that came in from the roof and destroyed their homes is hurricane damage and covered, while water that arrived by way of the same storm and came in through the door is flood-water damage and not covered. These thieves are going to give $600 million to a half-dead city?
And there is the certainty that huge portions of New Orleans will be bulldozed; that many corporations, which have already moved to other towns, will not return; that thousands of refugees will not return; that thousands of small businesses will not reopen, as well as schools, hospitals, parks, strip malls...you name it.
But, that's their problem. For Benson, we're not talking about making money, we're talking about how much money he wants to make. The Saints made over $40 million in pretax profit last year while paying zero dollars in stadium rent. Last year, every team in the NFL got $85 million from TV contracts. Next year's new contracts will be worth 53 percent more. You could field an NFL team in Julian, bar the public from attending any games, and the TV money would be the same. Tom is in his late 70s and looks every day of it. He could be a hero, stay in New Orleans, and lose some money. He could officially move his team to San Antonio, or, more likely, sell it to Los Angeles investors and have more money to...make more money with.
I'm sure you'll join me in welcoming the Los Angeles Saints to Southern California.