Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fifty bucks for a fingertip?

From the Department of What The $*%&?, that story about the woman in Nevada who accused Wendy's of lacing her chili with somebody's finger just keeps getting more weird. According to the Houston Chronicle, the woman got the finger from her husband, who got it from a guy at some plant who cut it off in machinery. The de-fingered individual went around, showing it off like a badge of honor to his co-workers. When the Wendy's woman's husband saw it, he remembered that the de-fingered guy owed him fifty bucks, and asked to have the finger instead. And thus, the debt was eliminated.

That's not all, of course. The finger was preserved somehow, before being plunked into that chick's chili at Wendy's.

I think I'll stop there.

Friday, May 13, 2005

LA Times: "L.A. could be in store for quite a Saintly presence"

Below are excerpts from today's Los Angeles Times, where sports columnist T.J. Simers opines on the Saints in his story entitled "L.A. Could Be In Store For Quite a Saintly Presence":

"Like it or not, the NFL is on track to finally return, an attorney for the Saints this week saying the team could be on the move next year, already has an offer from someone in L.A., and ask yourself — will you wear a bag over your head?"

"The NFL will return to the Coliseum, a brand-spanking new Coliseum with all the bells and whistles designed to run up the price of tickets."

"WE'RE LOOKING at the Cleveland deal here in L.A., the NFL following the same plan it used to build a new stadium there after the team moved to Baltimore. Cleveland, getting financial help from the NFL, began construction on a new stadium without knowing who would be playing in it. I'm told the new building will have alarms in case the Raiders attempt to move in.

"The Saints remain the favorites — the first time they've been favorites in anything for a long time. They have a 90-day window to leave after the 2005 season, while paying an $81-million penalty, but if they don't go, the team must stay in New Orleans until 2010. Why would anyone want to stay in New Orleans for more than a weekend? 'In my opinion we'll be playing football in the [new] Coliseum in 2008 or 2009 — most likely 2009,' Coliseum GM Pat Lynch said."

Not exactly flattering talk about New Orleans or the Saints, but it's yet another verification of where things are heading.

Benson's New Orleans dealership changes name

Word out of New Orleans is that Tom Benson's automobile dealership in the Big Easy has dropped the name "Benson" in a name change. According to WWL, Benson still owns the dealership, however.

It is interesting that Benson would initiate a name change in the midst of talks of a Saints relocation. Is he setting the stage for that move? Have his dealership's sales dipped because of all that has occurred in the public spotlight over the last couple of years? Or is he getting ready to retire, sell the Saints for a cool billion bucks, and move someplace else? The timing is curious.

On another note, the Times-Picayune reports, similarly to what I had posted previously but in far more detail, that San Antonio is not a realistic option for an NFL relocation. New Orleans and San Antonio are similarly situated in terms of population and Fortune 500 companies, as well as stadium situations (two domes needing upgrades).

The NFL is targeting only one city for relocation (and it ain't Albuquerque).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

NFL to meet in two weeks on team move to LA

An excerpt from yesterday's Los Angeles Times:

"The presentations featured a comparative analysis of the competing sites — the Rose Bowl, Carson, Anaheim and the Coliseum — two weeks before NFL owners will meet in Washington in part to discuss the prospects of putting a team in the Los Angeles area. The league is expected to choose a stadium site or narrow the field at the May 24-25 meetings."

In other words, the NFL is moving full speed ahead for a move to Los Angeles. And, as I have stated in previous posts, the Saints are the frontrunners to be the new team in LA. Perhaps there is an outside chance that there WILL be an announcement of a team to move there this month, as NFL commish Paul Tagliabue had previously desired...

Also, in another story of interest from Fox Sports, the next-to-last paragraph in a story on the Saints wooing San Antonio reads as follows:
"On Tuesday, Anaheim officials unveiled plans for a football stadium near the home of the baseball Angels that could house an NFL franchise by 2008. Anaheim is one of four sites in the greater Los Angeles area being considered for an NFL franchise. The others are the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and a proposed stadium in Carson."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Where dat? See ya, Saints II

With the talks in Louisiana at a complete impasse, Tom Benson's plan to move the Saints out of New Orleans in the very near future is becoming more and more apparent.

In today's San Antonio Express-News, Stanley Rosenberg, an attorney in San Antonio who represents Benson, says that Benson has a strong interest in moving the Saints out of New Orleans and is actively looking to do so, with San Antonio being an option. And, with a pending mayoral runoff in the city, the candidates involved seem more than happy to jump on the bandwagon and try to make something happen.

Benson, of course, is no stranger to San Antonio. As the Express-News points out, he does have a home and business interests there. But San Antonio is similarly situated to New Orleans in terms of market size and not having enough wealth to spread around two professional sports franchises. Plus, the Alamodome would be the likely home site for such a move, and that arena needs as much if not more upgrades than does the Superdome. Take that with a potential relocation to Los Angeles lingering in the horizon, and getting the required 24 of 32 votes from NFL owners for this move seems highly unlikely.

As for Albuquerque - yes, the Saints are flirting with New Mexico too, according to the Express-News - that just won't happen. The NFL doesn't have room for a duplicate of the Arizona Cardinals.

So the obvious direction of the team is....drumroll, please....Los Angeles. Benson can draw around a $1 billion offer for the Saints (which is a great payoff for him, considering he paid around $70 million for the team in the 1980s). And all signs point to the team's departure west after the 2005 season.

The team's exit clause from its deal with Louisiana calls for a one-time $81 million payout within 90 days of the Saints' 2005 season finale. If Benson does that, he is free and clear to do what he wants. By not renegotiating the overly charitable deal with the state, Benson showed his hand. He will have his cake and eat it too, by still receiving this year's $15 million payment from Louisiana, while maintaining the ability to cut and run after 2005.

The obligation to keep the state in Louisiana would apparently still be intact even if Benson sold the team to another suitor. That would restrict offers he would receive for the team. So, if he forks over the $81 mil for the exit clause, the team could be sold to the highest bidder and moved - where else - to Los Angeles, the nation's second largest media market. That $81 million pales in comparison to a $1 billion payday.

The NFL is definitely on track to get a team to Los Angeles before the end of the decade. The Los Angeles Times has, for obvious reasons, been keeping track of the ongoings around the league. One story, entitled "Delay of NFL Game in L.A." from Christmas Day, 2004, focused on NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's goal of announcing a decision in May 2005 on a team to move to LA by 2008. While the May announcement is not expected to occur, it does signify the very high desire to push things to happen.

That same story talked about the targeted teams for a move to Los Angeles:

"Now, the New Orleans Saints look to be the franchise that could most easily relocate to L.A., especially in light of the strained relationship between Saint owner Tom Benson and the state over the need for a new stadium and the use of public money to bolster the team's bottom line. In a comment that made headlines in Louisiana, Tagliague told The Times the Saints' situation 'doesn't look like it's any better today than it was a year ago. If anything, it looks worse.'"

With that backdrop, it's interesting to note that New Orleans, which has hosted more Super Bowls than any other city and is lauded as an outstanding Super Bowl site, is not on tap to host another one through 2010. The last one in the Crescent City was 2002's classic between the Patriots and Rams. To host a Super Bowl, the host city must have an NFL franchise. Perhaps the Super Bowl schedule of hosts foreshadows what is to come.

I think Tagliabue will get his wish, far earlier than he has asserted. The Saints look like they're headed to Los Angeles in 2006, Benson looks like he's months from being a billionaire, and Louisiana looks like it will be less one NFL team - and the annual offseason headaches from Benson.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

See ya, Saints

Something that had been gathering steam to me over the last year or so became crystal clear this morning.

The New Orleans Saints are headed to Los Angeles.

It might not happen tonight, or tomorrow, or this year, or the next, but within the next four years I predict that the NFL will make the move it desires and return a franchise to Los Angeles. LA is the second-largest media market in the country, and an NFL team there means mucho when you're talking TV and advertising revenue.

The NFL has gone on record several times over the last 18 months or so that it strongly desires to get a franchise in LA before the end of the decade. (In other words, it will happen.) There's no way NFL owners will allow further expansion for the near future, for at least two reasons. One, the talent can only spread around so much before the game level completely falls off. And two, 32 teams divides up nicely in terms of divisions, scheduling, etc. So where does that leave things?

Sometime last season I read and heard that there were three franchises being eyed for a move to LA: the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, and New Orleans Saints. Since then, the Vikings have found themselves a new owner, the Colts have a new stadium deal that has been approved by the voters, and the Saints...let's just say things don't look good for the Crescent City. Unless, of course, the Vikings' new owner (who is from Phoenix, I believe) decides to move his new team closer to home. That just doesn't seem that likely to me.

Which brings me to this: Tom Benson knows what kind of leverage he has with the state of Louisiana. Ex-governor Mike Foster made a boneheaded deal and salted away taxpayer funds to line Benson's pockets. It's the sweetest of sweetheart deals for Benson, and because it's a contract with the state, he's in no hurry to renegotiate. Kudos to Governor Kathleen Blanco for making attempts in vain to help the state's citizens from sacrificing much-needed money, but Benson's announcement today that he has cut off negotiations with Blanco says far more than its text.

It sends a message that he will milk that deal for all it's worth, then either sell the team for a tremendous profit (he paid $70M for it in the mid-1980s, and can stand to make over $900M in a sale), or let the NFL pay the state-imposed penalty after next season and get the team to Los Angeles.

In either case, it's the most viable option for the NFL to achieve its ultimate goal of having a franchise located in Los Angeles. And, after today, it's painfully clear now more than ever that Benson will take full advantage of his situation before leaving the state in the lurch.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The upcoming Athlon SEC preview for the Baton Rouge area. By next January, RSO believes the entire college football nation will be looking up at LSU. Posted by Hello

Is it football season yet?

I think it's only fitting to allow my first full post, and semi-introduction, to focus on one of the best things about living in Louisiana - sports. We love to have fun, we love to eat, we love to drink, and we love our sports. Especially football. (These all help console us from our political predicament, which will be the subject of other postings.)

So, in that vein, here we are, not quite to May just yet. I'm watching some mostly unexciting NBA playoff basketball (Game 2 between Chicago and Washington), and tuned in earlier to an equally uninspiring baseball matchup between the Yankees and the "Don't Call Us Anaheim" Los Angeles Angels ("Oh Yeah, We Still Play in Anaheim, So...") of Anaheim.

I'm sure the NBA postseason will get better, especially if my lifelong favorite franchise (Detroit Pistons) wins its fourth title. But the first round is full of mediocre play, and the truly best teams won't get challenged by one another for a couple of weeks. Nothing to get too overly excited about, at least not until these initial series approach elimination status.

As for baseball, for crying out loud, can the season be any longer? For once - and this is rare - I was genuinely excited for the start of the season. I watched Dmitri Young blast his three homers for Detroit on opening day (no, I'm not a Tigers fan), and had a good time seeing the first Yankees-Red Sox mini-war. (There is no greater rivalry in all of sports, even if it's not football.) But when they stop, and the season starts its looooooooonnnnng grind to the All-Star break, let's face facts - it's just not that fun over the first, say, 80 games of 162.

My point to all of this is that I never, EVER, feel this way during football season. Ever. And I get the feeling a majority of big-time sports fans feel the same way. Instead of the above, give me the NFL Draft, which this year had the best TV ratings in its history. And it wasn't even a star-laden draft. Give me the tens of overpriced preseason magazines, stocked full with the detailed team breakdowns, the prognosticators, their fearless predictions, and the annual inevitable Dr. Z laugher of a Super Bowl pick in Sports Illustrated. Give me the freaking preseason, where pointless games draw bigger audiences than meaningful ones in the NBA and MLB. Give me the best, most popular fantasy draft and season (I refuse to call it "rotisserie" - that, my friends, should be reserved solely for roasted chicken).

It's all a stairway to heaven, otherwise known as a six-month ecstasy of Saturdays from college sites (especially for those of us blessed enough to live within short distance of the greatness that is Tiger Stadium) and Sundays and Mondays from the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. It sucks you in, and you can never get enough. And it all ends with the greatest sporting event of all, the aptly named SUPER BOWL, which in a way is like Zion in the Matrix trilogy before the computer invasion - a colossal, overly gratuitous party where everyone enjoys the moment as much as possible, but when it's all over, the outlook just isn't that peachy. That is, you wake up after the Super Bowl and recognize that you will be without your weekly fix for a very long time. It's the most jarring Monday morning of the year. And you use basketball (thank God for March Madness, which I can enjoy as a long-time UConn fan - I'll explain that oddity at some point) and baseball to get you through the withdrawal.

With all that in mind, I am thankful that the countdown to kickoff of the first preseason game is less than three months away. Having perused the LSU message boards (Yes, of course, I am a die-hard Tiger fan), I have seen that I am not alone. Posted on those boards are (a) the first Athlon college football magazine cover for LSU (see photo above), (b) the first Ivan Maisel preseason poll (proving once again that he apparently has a genuine vendetta against LSU), (c) the first ESPN experts preseason polls all matched up (I've always liked Mark May), and (d) the ongoing discussions of concern over progress with Tiger Stadium's west upper deck reconstruction forcing LSU to play its first couple of games in the Superdome in New Orleans (which is a ridiculous rumor and will not happen).

As the caption to the above photo states, I am of the sincere belief that LSU will win the 2005 national championship. Yep. That's right. I said it. I typed it. I posted it. And I am not Dr. Z, so don't get too worried. LSU will run the table and win the Rose Bowl next January - hopefully over USC. I'll go into a lot more detail in the near future on why I think the Tigers will be hoisting another crystal football in eight months or so, but that's obviously a whole other posting.

Bottom line: There are two seasons - football season, and waiting for football season. The latter is about to kick into full "anxiously awaiting kickoff" gear. And that, friends, is better than feigning excitement over early NBA playoff games and pointless hundreds of baseball games. Just stay patient, enjoy basketball and baseball for what they are, and football season will be here before you know it.

(At least that's what I keep telling myself.)