Saints still in great standing after darker days and Katrina

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Jameis Winston
(Photo: Parker Waters)

In 56 seasons of New Orleans Saints football, it is the only game, regular or preseason, that I cannot recall.

On Thursday September 1, 2005, the Saints lost to the Raiders in the Oakland Coliseum, 13-6, in a preseason game played three days after Hurricane Katrina should have never been played.

So said longtime Modesto Bee sportswriter Ron Agostino, who wrote that night the NFL should have released the following statement.

“Out of compassion for the Saints and their fans, the preseason game between the Saints and the Raiders has been cancelled.”

Agostino then addressed the elephant in the room, one that was exacerbated by the arrival of Katrina.

“The cynic in us can’t help but project the eventual transplanting of the Saints to Los Angeles.”

Each year at this time, it is hard to ignore the history written in the final days of August and the months that followed.

The Saints 2005 season was a 3-13 disaster.

Yet, it was also the beginning of the rebirth of a city and the pro sports franchise that its citizens love so dearly.

Years later, there isn’t much attention paid to where the Saints were as a franchise, in the weeks, months and even years before Katrina.

Saints owner Tom Benson had flirted with multiple venues to move his club, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The club’s final preseason game before Katrina was played on the Friday before the storm at the Superdome.

There were two things a reporter observed that night.

Apathy and plenty of empty seats.

The Saints were in a bad way on the field (one playoff appearance since 1992) and off. Season tickets were not a commodity.

What Katrina gave the Saints was a chance to hit the reset button.

Benson, with more than a nudging from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, brought the Saints back to New Orleans for the 2006 season.

The Saints made peace with the state of Louisiana, and Benson re-engaged with New Orleans. His philanthropy, already significant, increased in exponential fashion.

Years later at Benson’s funeral at St. Louis Cathedral, fans lined the streets of the French Quarter to pay their respects. The outpouring of emotion for Mr. Benson and his widow Gayle was truly amazing.

During Super Bowl week, Mr. Benson invited several media members to breakfast in downtown Miami. He was understandably beaming.

Benson asked two reporters to interview his wife. They considered it an honor.

Days later, Benson hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

Seventeen years after Katrina, the Saints and the Superdome live in a completely different existence.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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