On the undercard for the most important NFL game will be the usual onslaught of the nation's sporting press, celebrities of all hue and stripe, every musician of note, and even Justin Timberlake sans Janet Jackson. They along with the usual gaggle of hangers on will convene here this week for what has become one of the biggest days in America, sporting or otherwise. But some locals are only waiting for one face from outside the borders to appear.
Commissioner Roger Goodell can expect to hear some jeers from faithful Who Dats who still blame him for penalizing their own band of rules-breaking brigands. After all, this is New Orleans, a town where rules are meant to be bent. Rules in New Orleans are only guidelines, like the 55 mph speed limit. Nobody is expected to drive that slowly in this town, and nobody is really expected to conform to any limits on our personal pecadilloes. Many restaurants have featured pictures of Goodell with instructions: "Do Not Serve This Man." Of course, Goodell wouldn't be caught dead in joints like those anyway.
But for all the fans who still bear ill will toward Goodell, let me offer some guidance in the form of a biblical reference that should be their mantra, at least for this week. Brethren, we point you to Romans 12:13 in the New Testament, that clearly states: "Contribute to the needs of the Saints and seek to show hospitality." (English Standard Version) The point of today's sermon is to love your team, but be hospitable to visitors this week, including the commissar of NFL football and all environs thereof. And here is why: If it wasn't for Goodell, the big game this week might have been played in San Antonio.
Saints owner Tom Benson's place in the spotlight this week is certainly well deserved. But Mistah Tawhm suffered a momentary lapse of reason after Katrina when he was inclined to ditch this submerged city and take his ball to his San Antonio home. Benson's intentions were so strong that he fired his chief executive officer over it. With nobody left to stand in the doorway after Arnie Fielkow was out of the way, Benson could have had a clear path if not for a couple of guys in New York. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his consigliere, Roger Goodell, were not going to let it happen. And they didn't.
While Tagliabue talked with Benson and the other owners, most of whom would have supported their fellow zillionaire, Goodell was laying groundwork with New Orleans, state and federal entities to get the Superdome playable again and assure that the team goes nowhere. Benson's flirtation with moving the Saints to San Antonio was torpedoed by Tagliabue with Goodell's able support, which has rippled down to New Orleans remaining one of the great sports venues in the country. Consider: if the team moved to San Antonio for the 2007 season, do you think our city would be sky-high for a Super Bowl right now? Not if it were being held in San Antonio in six days. Taking it one step further, do you think Benson would have stepped up to buy the Hornets last year? Probably not.
So if you see Goodell around town during Super Bowl festivities, forget that his day job includes punishing players and coaches for breaking NFL rules. Stop and thank him for his work to keep the Saints, and by extension the Super Bowl, and even the Hornets/Pelicans, in New Orleans.
by Jim W. Miller
His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores, at Amazon.com and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com
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