Monday, October 03, 2005

Saints alive!

Despite Paul Tagliabue's best efforts, the NFL finally came to San Antonio. I've never been a huge NFL fan--the college game is more my thing--but I was quite pleased to watch the black-and-gold of the Saints upend the Bills on Sunday. With 58,688 fans in the dome chanting "Who Dat?" it made for a fantastic showcase for San Antonio's NFL ambitions, as reflected in the positive commentary by JT the Brick:
The New Orleans Saints' "home" opener was all about the atmosphere, and San Antonio pulled it off. I wanted to see if San Antonio could prove that it could handle an NFL football team. I would rate this game-day experience as a 9 out of 10.

There is no doubt that the people of San Antonio know football, and their fans made sure that New Orleans had a home-field advantage at the Alamodome.

The only negative was that 58,688 is not the same as 65,000, which would've been a sellout. But I've been to the Alamodome when 55,000 fans are there, and I assure you it looks full, with only a scattering of empty seats visible hiter and yon. And 58K-plus is a heck of a lot more than the sub-20K fans Tagliabue warned about. In fact, it kind of baffled me when I read the AP reporter's take:
City officials had hoped a sellout would help push San Antonio's case as an NFL-worthy area, but there were large sections of empty seats.

Maybe an hour before kickoff, but during the game the stadium was darn close to capacity. It looked good on TV. I've covered several college games there, and there isn't a bad seat in the house. The press box is luxurious, and pretty much the perfect vantage point to watch all the action. I'm not kidding--it's a great place to watch a game.

That the game didn't sell out is a disappointment, and there are a lot of excuses to fall back on. A lot of reasons, too, starting with the fact the Saints had about three weeks to sell the season in San Antonio, whereas they normally have an entire year. And Hurricane Rita disrupted life pretty thoroughly here, even though the storm ultimately struck way up the coast, east of Houston. Tagliabue's negativism didn't help, back-to-back Saints losses didn't help, holding back the best seats for season ticket holders who ultimately didn't show didn't help, and a seemingly never-ending-stream of conmputer snafus that kept fans from getting the tickets they wanted certainly didn't help. In fact, if you look at it objectively, you have to wonder how so many fans actually made it to the game in the first place. And then stories surface like San Antonians are paying more for tickets than fans in Baton Rouge:
Now there is another ticketing issue that has some local officials scratching their heads.

In San Antonio, Saints games are costing fans $125 for the best seats. The least expensive single-game ticket is $30.

Those prices are significantly higher than what fans are paying for Saints games in Baton Rouge. In that city, the most expensive single-game ticket is $89. The least expensive is only $15.

Ultimately, San Antonio looked good for the Bills game, and the Saints are happy playing in the Alamodome. The Atlanta game will be a sellout, certainly. The only real question mark is the Detroit Lions game later in the year, because really, who wants to see Detroit? And Saints owner Tom Benson was happy at the end of the day:
Afterward, Saints owner Tom Benson credited the San Antonio fans for providing the emotional support that he said sparked his team's dominating defensive effort.

"They just got behind the Saints," Benson said. "They had those guys charged up, I'm going to tell you."

"It was refreshing to play in front of a home crowd," Saints coach Jim Haslett said, "and I think you saw the results. I thought the fan response was outstanding."

The course is clear, Mr. Tagliabue: Dual expansion in 2010. One team for your beloved Los Angeles, and another for San Antonio.

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