Tom Benson’s reality check

I hate seeing what’s happening to New Orleans right now. It’s a city I never had a chance to visit before Hurricane Katrina blew into town, and I hope it gets the opportunity to rebuild once the worst is over. If you’re stuck down there, stay as safe as you can.

As a football fan, though, the thing piquing my curiosity the most is how Saints owner Tom Benson will react to this storm. Katrina didn’t justĀ punch holes in the Superdome roof; it also destroyed just about any hope that Benson has of getting a new stadium in New Orleans. If the city and state didn’t have the money before, they damn sure won’t have it now.

The Superdome may not even be ready by Sept. 18 for the Saints’ home opener against the Giants, in no small part because it may still be needed for shelter by then. New Orleans will be cleaning up from Katrina forĀ months. A storm like this can either unite a city behind its teams — much like Hurricane Andrew did for “the U” — or it could tear it to shreds.

So how will Benson respond to this? Will he start trying to foster some good will (for a change) in Louisiana and repair his reputation? Or will he use this storm as a final excuse to pack up the Saints and head west? Any team sharing a division with both the Falcons and the Panthers needs all the help it can get, so Benson’s reaction to Katrina may be the most crucial factor in the Saints’ success this season.

Which is pretty sad, but not nearly as sad as what this storm is doing to New Orleans…

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