Quarterback Aaron Brooks was one of several Saints players who expressed displeasure about playing their first home game in front of a hostile crowd.
To them, Monday night's foray was in all manner a road game — as much so as Sunday's more conventional road game at Minnesota will be.
Brooks' message to the NFL?
"Try not to patronize us next time," Brooks said, "traveling us to New York, saying we're playing a home game."
Tagliabue called competitive questions raised by the move "inconsequential."
At one point, (Saints coach Jim) Haslett said, he caught the stadium scoreboard flashing, "Let's go Giants."
"We never had that at home," Haslett said, wryly.
Of course, according to Tagliabue, playing at the Meadowlands is still a brilliant move, while having three games scheduled for San Antonio's Alamodome is still a wrongheaded mistake. Tagliabue continues to dismiss San Antonio as a feeble "small market" incapable of supporting the NFL, evidence to the contrary.
In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune published Tuesday, Tagliabue rejected the idea that San Antonio's support for the displaced New Orleans Saints represents a chance for the city to prove its NFL worth. He implied San Antonio couldn't provide adequate support for an NFL team.
Responding specifically about San Antonio's qualifications, Tagliabue said the NFL has no plans to move "any teams into small markets."
Said Tagliabue: "We're going to be moving up in market size, not either down or flat."
Let's look at the facts. Tagliabue didn't want to play any Saints games in SA because he warned that only 20,000 people would show up in the 65,000-seat Alamodome. Grudgingly, the NFL (read: Tagliabue) allowed SA to host three Saints games, still warning of dire consequences. But when 50,000 tickets were sold the first day they were made available, the demand creating lines more than a quarter mile long and crashing Ticketmaster's online ordering system, Tagliabue dismissed it as a fluke, warning that SA's corporate base wouldn't support a team. When more than 200 corporate executives turned up at a hastily-called meeting by the SA Chamber of Commerce--including SBC Communications, Toyota, USAA, Washington Mutual, Valero and Clear Channel Communications (hardly international corporate lightweights)--and eagerly opened up the checkbooks, Tagliabue dismissed the response as "irrelevant."
What's with this guy? Why does he continually set disparaging standards for San Antonio, then arbitrarily change those standards when the Alamo City far exceeds them? Why does he hate San Antonio? Easy: San Antonio isn't Los Angeles.
San Antonio, Tagliabue said, was never considered as a site for the Giants game, even though this is where the Saints now train and reside. It was more important, he said, to move the game to an exciting setting and into an environment that would convince the Saints that their season can still be "meaningful."
So the game was moved to a stadium crowned with empty seats, even as ticket sales for three games here stampede toward sellouts. With hardly a fan there to support them, the Saints embarrassed themselves.
As for Tagliabue's arrogance, it's clear he intends to handle all of Tom Benson's affairs from now on — like a creature from outer space who has invaded the body of the zombie Saints owner. "Saints will play where NFL commands. Go now and obey your master."
Truth is — Tagliabue wants to loot the team for L.A, which hasn't lifted a finger to help the Saints. But, hey, Mick Jagger hangs there.
San Antonio is not trying to poach the Saints from New Orleans. The city's desperate to show that it can support an NFL team so that it can land an expansion franchise in the future, or perhaps a relocation team (not necessarily the Saints). But SA is viewed as a threat in all scenarios by Tagliabue, who wants to place an expansion franchise in Los Angeles, relocate an existing team to Los Angeles, and relocate the Saints to Los Angeles. Preferrably all three. Keep in mind that in the past decade, LA has lost not one, but two NFL teams to other cities due to indifference (Rams to St. Louis, Raiders back to Oakland). The NFL set up a dog-and-pony show expansion plan for the express purpose of creating a team for Los Angeles, but you know what? Los Angeles didn't make a sincere effort to even unwrap the gift from Tagliabue, and Houston was able to sneak it from under the Christmas tree and name the team the "Texans." Now, Tagliabue sees the Saints as a golden opportunity to move a small-market team to LA. Except that darn, pesky SA keeps jumping up and down saying "Look at me! Look at me!" much the same way as Houston successfully did a few years back. So Tagliabue goes out of his way to dismiss San Antonio at every opportunity, trying to clear the decks for LA, which hasn't so much as lifted a finger to help the Saints, or the NFL.
As for Tagliabue's dismissal of SA as a "small market," let's do some comparison, shall we? As the 8th largest city in the U.S., SA looks pretty impressive. But in terms of metropolitan area, it's only 27th or so. Not great, but still significant. In terms of television market, SA ranks only 37th on the Nielsen media market list. But, compare this to New Orleans, which ranks 43 on that list, Buffalo at 49, Jacksonville at 52 and Green Bay at 69. And San Antonio is rapidly growing, in population, corporate presence and disposable income. Add Austin into the equation--53rd largest media market with its tech-fueled wealth--and it's a no-brainer that an NFL team would prosper in South-Central Texas. The only reason to deny this is to force a team into LA. I think David Flores sums it up best:
At the risk of sounding provincial and being defensive, I think you need to rethink your perception of San Antonio. Moreover — and, again, con respeto — the way you so easily dismissed the Alamodome for Monday night's game smacks of the kind of arrogance that makes folks in these parts awfully suspicious of Yankees like you.
You know, when the owners of both the Houston Texans (Bob McNair) and the Dallas Cowboys (Jerry Jones) endorse San Antonio as being worthy and ready for an NFL team--even though San Antonio is a "secondary market" for both of them and a new team would potentially cut into their revenue--you have to sit up and take notice. And really, really question the NFL's motives.
People of New Orleans, San Antonio isn't trying to steal your team. The NFL is. Be afraid.
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