Wednesday, September 07, 2005
John DeShazier: Benson has responsibility to city of N.O. - via nola.com
Timing is everything.Apparently Tom Benson is lousy at it. And NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue should tell him so, and strongly suggest to the owner of the Saints that he has a responsibility in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.Tell him his job is to lift the spirits of New Orleanians the best way he can. Tell him he'll get the new stadium he covets and a Super Bowl, but the only words that should originate from his mouth are ones lamenting the loss of life and property. Tell him his franchise will support the only city it ever has called home, that it's the least he can do for a ravaged region which, during times of feast and famine, faithfully has supported his team.Instead, you hear that Benson might be interested in making the Saints a Texas team.If true, under ordinary conditions that would be a slight. If true, under current conditions, it's about as callous an idea that ever has been thought, let alone mouthed.If true, what it means is this: At a time when New Orleans needs each one of its able-bodied and deep-pocketed citizens to stand and show the world they believe in the city, and will do their part in resuscitating the economy that helped make them prosperous, Benson might be more interested in walking away.Benson never has been bashful about using San Antonio as a relocation prospect, which gives the rumor credence. And, most rumors have some foundation in fact. They might morph a little during the retelling, but there is truth lying somewhere amid the shifting.The best thing Benson could have done was to say early on that he had New Orleans' back. Instead, he left the door open to rumors.Yes, Benson is a businessman. He's not running a charity. He is, and should be, concerned about whether the people will return, whether an economy that wasn't rosy to begin with just grew a lot more thorns than petals.But to suggest he owes nothing to a region that has shown its commitment hundreds of times over through its willingness to buy tickets and attend games even during times the only reason to attend was to commiserate with fellow gluttons for bad football, would be ludicrous.New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been too good to him to have this kind of news rear its head while they tread water for survival, literally and figuratively.Instead, he publicly should be expressing compassion for all that has been destroyed, and looking to a brighter future, one that'll include the new facility he has lobbied so hard for and, from Tagliabue, the promise of a Super Bowl to aid in the recovery.New stadium? Yes, because while there may be restoration in store for the Superdome, there simply is a stench and stigma attached to her now that cannot be washed away.The horror stories emanating from citizens that were housed inside the grand facility during Katrina, when it was used as a shelter, are the kind that will waft around inside the building forever. A patched roof and paint job won't do when, according to reports, rape and murder and mistreatment was a common, toxic mix.But it reeks that in the shadow of catastrophe and atrocity, the possibility that one of the few pleasantries that still can be grasped might pack and go even if it is being discussed.This isn't at all the time for that.But for Benson, timing rarely seems to be a strong point.